Baby Steps

Surgery was ten days ago. My stamina for doing things like going somewhere and sitting and talking a bit is limited. That said, my body is on the mend, and I have just enough energy to go somewhere and sit and talk a bit and nothing else. I’ve gone out twice in two days, first day successful, second day, not so much. How about some context?

I have 80% less stomach than I did 11 days ago. My digestive system isn’t entirely different, but it’s gone through enough change that it has to be eased back into normal usage. When you’re in the hospital, it’s clear liquids (water, broth, sugar-free gelatin, etc.) only. When you get home, you immediately graduate to full liquids (heavily blended cream soups, sugar-free pudding, protein shakes, Cream of Wheat, etc.) and that’s as exciting as it gets for the first two weeks. I’m ten days in and I’d trade my dignity for fucking oatmeal. But that’s not the point.

The point is: liquids. And protein. 64 ounces of liquid a day, and 60 grams of protein. 400 calories. Remember: 80% less stomach. Protein has to be liquid too, which is easy, except that your taste will change, and the thought of a protein shake makes me want to vomit. They’re so sickly sweet, it’s like drinking syrup. There’s protein water, but it’s less protein per bottle, so getting all your protein in becomes challenging. My favorite thing on earth right now is the broth for the beef pho from the local pho place. Next best thing is cooked chicken brought to a boil in chicken broth, and then blended into a sludge. It’s so goddamn good. In four days I get promoted to puréed foods, so in four days it’s Christmas. Two weeks of that, and it’s soft foods, and two weeks after that, I ease slowly back into adult food, and over the next year, I work my way up to a 1200–calorie–a–day diet. Okay, that’s more than enough context.

Two days ago, I met some of my favorite people for a bowl of broth. Then I got a haircut, and then I went to bed, at 2:30pm, and that was my day. Yesterday, I went out, didn’t get a giant bowl of broth, didn’t make any kind of plan for staying either hydrated or fueled with protein, winged it, and by the time I got home, I wasn’t so much hungry as I was drained. Like, completely drained. 400 calories a day is not a lot. So when I got inside the house, I needed to refuel. I grabbed a sugar-free pudding, ate it in like, five seconds (it’s literally 3.5 ounces), grabbed and ate another one in like, ten seconds, grabbed a protein water, and collapsed in bed. And then five minutes later, I was back up and dealing with the consequences of eating 7 ounces of pudding too fast. The consequences were fucking dire. I’m being so tactful right now you’re almost ready to fall in love with me, you just don’t know it yet.

I ate too fast. Not because I was starving, because there’s no hunger as you’d normally think of it. I did it because that’s been how I’ve eaten, when the need is severe, for most of my life. Take too much. Take more than you need. Eat it all now. Intellectually, I know I have a smaller stomach capacity now. But my habit-brain hasn’t caught up to speed yet, and my habit–brain is the brain I’m saddled with most of my waking hours. Five years after I quit smoking, I’d reach for a pack of cigarettes that wasn’t there, every time I walked out of a theater. This time around, I don’t have five years, the consequences are more dire than that. Here are the takeaways from all of this:

  1. I have to internalize the idea that I have to eat baby portions for now.
  2. I cannot leave my house unless I’ve made a plan for water and protein for the entire time I’m out of the house.

No more winging it. If I don’t have a plan for how I’m going to get water and protein – for the entire time I’m gone – I can’t leave the house. At least for a few months. When I get back to eating adult food, winging it becomes a bit easier. But I’m not there yet.