Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sunday Success Secrets 1 - Technology

Don't get me wrong - the lack of a Sunday Grateful Post is not due to a lack of gratitude, but more because it can take a while to get it down properly. Also, with the option between this and a Success Secrets post at the end of the weekend, I feel protected against having to whip a grateful post out of thin air. Doing so would undoubtedly result in some disingenuous topics, which would also lessen the gravity of the posts that deal with people or groups for whom I am deeply thankful. With that in mind, please enjoy the first Sunday Success Secrets post, a series in which I plan to share my little tips and tricks to help make life more manageable post-op.

Ah, technology. Whether you love it or hate it, there's no escaping it. For me, it's a great tool and a fun toy. I've found many ways to use it to in my daily life to help with all sorts of things, from keeping track of protein and fluid intake to making sure I can make the most of my doctor appointments.

It's no great secret that I love the Penn Health Network - I've been to 8 of their locations for various reasons and seen doctors in all sorts of departments over the last few years. One advantage of keeping everything in the same system is that they have one big electronic medical file for me, accessible at any of their locations. In addition, patients have the option to activate their own online account through My Penn Medicine. This site allows patients to view past and upcoming appointments, review test results including historical results for comparison (that's where the liver enzyme graphs came from in previous posts), request prescription refills and referrals, and send and receive messages from doctors and nurses that already participate in the patient's care. For me, the final option is especially useful, as the doctors I have needed to communicate with so far have been quick to reply, much quicker than if I had left a phone message. Not only does it put so much information at my fingertips, but it makes me feel more in touch with my medical care.

Lose It! is another website I use. The site, as well as its smart phone app, are free - my favorite price! There is a paid version, but the extra perks it offers (make custom challenges, ability to connect high tech fitness gadgets) don't temp me in the least. The free version allows access to all the features I enjoy, such as food and exercise logging, several different reporting functions, social networking, online challenges, and best of all, badges! The badges are just virtual motivation and don't get you anything in the real world, but every time I get a new one it's very exciting. I enjoy watching them stack up, especially in the categories that require you to do something for a certain number of weeks (i.e. exercise 3 times per week for X weeks in a row). Many of these weekly badges have 2, 4, 8, 16 or 26, and 52 week increments. There is some variation, but for the most part the idea is to motivate you to keep up healthy habits. I'm getting close to my 75 pounds lost badge - that will certainly be exciting! The one cautionary advice I would give is to double check the nutrition facts on the website/app for an item against those printed on the packaging the first time you eat something new. Sometimes the values are pretty far off, an error I assume comes from either someone inputting them wrong the first time, or changes in the manufacturer's recipe. It is quick and easy to make "custom foods" and recipes, which makes this flaw negligible, if you are willing to put in a couple minutes' work.

In order to make the most of my many doctor appointments, I use a Google Drive document to keep track of questions or issues I want to discuss at upcoming appointments. It's also useful for remembering when I am allowed to start or stop doing something (such as taking a medication or lifting restrictions). I usually keep one document open on my laptop at home so that, as a thought pops into my head, I can quickly jot it down and discuss it at my next appointment. When I go to the appointment, I just pull up the document through the Google Drive App on my phone at home so that it's ready to go at the office. I prefer to bring a pen and paper to write down answers, since typing a lot of information can be time consuming on my phone. I have also used the spreadsheet function of Google Drive for keeping track of symptoms or for tracking weight and measurements. Lots of people at the Obesity Help forums instruct those who are worrying about a weight loss stall (when the scale doesn't budge for several days/weeks) to keep track of their measurements as well, as it is entirely likely that while the scale might remain the same, the inches continue to go down. A strange phenomenon, but I only see positive outcomes from keeping track of these numbers, especially if it helps prevent me from throwing the scale across the room!

As mentioned above, Obesity Help is a great website for those considering or who have gone through weight loss surgery. Not only can you find listings and reviews of doctors, protein supplements, vitamins, and much more, but the forums have become an invaluable resource. They are divided into many sub-sections, such as RNY, Sleeve, WLS in your 20s, and many more. While there are a few people who post frequently on the forums and are very knowledgeable in certain subjects (vitamins, lab work values), the sense of community and realization that there are other people going through the same things that I am is what I find most helpful. I haven't had many problems, but I know that if I have a question or a success, I can post it and the community will respond with assistance and suggestions or praise and congratulations, depending on the situation. For those who are still pre-op, please remember when visiting the site that people are much more likely to post if they are having trouble than if everything is going great - don't let the number of "Help!!" posts get in your head - they are just more numerous because everyone else can only check in to say "I'm still doing amazing!" so many times.

Finally, keeping track of schedules. I have to take various vitamins and medications every day on timed intervals, plus get in all my protein and fluids. My first day back to work it was obvious that, left to my own devices, it was not going to happen. So I solved this minor issue by setting recurring alerts on my Outlook to remind me to have morning and afternoon snacks and lunch. For the weekends, I am a bit more of a relaxed schedule (and consequently don't always do the greatest job), but I have come to the realization that sleeping in until noon is no longer part of my life. If I did, there wouldn't be enough hours in the day to get everything in! So, I also set a phone alarm for 8 AM on the weekends, in order to make sure I get up and start my daily intake. Not only do I get in all my protein and fluids, but I have been able to do so over the last week without a protein supplement!

Hopefully this overview of how technology can be useful in weight loss will give others a jumping off point to taking more control of their habits and reaching their own goals!

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