Home sick!

by Christine on July 21st, 2010

filed under Christine's Life Updates

Sorry for the lack of posting today. I’ve decided to stay home from work to rest up. I have a persistent sore throat that won’t go away, plus a little cough.  I’ve opted to stay in and sleep up.  If I feel motivated, perhaps I’ll write something longer later!

I just went for a 2 mile walk, wondering of the sunshine and exercise would make me feel better.

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Non Scale Victory (NSV) Tuesday

by Christine on July 20th, 2010

filed under Christine's Life Updates

Today I woke up with a sore throat and a small cough. Boy, that just sucks! I hope I’m not getting sick — I have a party in NYC this weekend that I don’t want to miss!I am extremely excited to go shopping for clothes with girlfriends this week. Karen has impeccable, sexy style; I hope she can fix drab old me up with something a little more glam than usual!

The last week I did extremely well following my food plan. I had soup as planned, salads for dinner. I drank a TON of water for the PEWC 64-ounce Water Challenge.  Actually, I got close or met the goal every day except for two days last week, which is a big accomplishment for me. I am back on track today and am chugging my water.

Despite all these successes, the scale hasn’t budged. I am officially on a bona fide plateau, everyone, and it really sucks. My first gut reaction is to reach for the phone and make an appointment with my surgeon for another fill.  However, I know that’s not a reasonable solution; my band is already at the “sweet-spot.” I don’t need another fill to make me tighter; I won’t get the calories I need to stay healthy. However, getting a fill would be the easy way out at this point, and I don’t want to give in. I hope I can do this the old-fashioned, hard way: with proper attention to my diet and exercise.

So to cheer me up today, I wanted to celebrate some non-scale victories (NSVs) I’ve had in the last week!

  1. Yesterday I had not one. Not two. But FOUR men “check me out” at the convenience store. Hey, I”ll take what I can get.  Getting looks make me feel a bit awkward because I’m really not used to it, but looks also make me feel good inside. Now I just have to work on attaining eye contact with my fellow human beings….
  2. Three people at work told me that I look like I’ve lost weight. When I thought about it, I think I’ve lost about 30 pounds since starting this job in January.
  3. At the bachelorette party on Saturday, the bride-to-be said, “You’re melting away!”
  4. On Friday, one of my good friends that I see fairly regularly said, “Woah, you look way skinnier than the last time I saw you!”
  5. I discovered a bone that I didn’t even know existed! It’s under my collar bones (which emerged only a few months ago) and above my breasts. I suppose it’s the top of my breastbone? Last night I noticed it in the mirror. My skin is so thin (aka: there’s VERY LITTLE FAT under the skin) in my chest area that I could see this new bone pretty clearly. I was like woah! What the hell is that?
  6. My legs are looking more and more like a mess, especially in the upper thigh. The skin is hanging and jiggly and is all-around unsightly. Although this is a negative, I realize that it’s like that because I’ve lost enough weight that my skin isn’t held taught from the fat. And hey, that’s all good.  (Anyone know if they do tummy-tuck style surgery on legs?)
  7. I’ve lost 38 inches so far over my whole body! (neck, arm, chest, waist, hips, thigh)
  8. When I stand in the mirror, looking at my body in nothing but underwear, the undies don’t dig into my skin. I don’t have “love handles” and a big fatty doughnut around my waist. For once in my life, my hip area is starting to look, well…smooth.
  9. When I reach behind me to scratch my back, I can feel vertebrae. Real-life spine. On me. I don’t think it’s visible, but I can feel it pretty clearly.

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8 Easy Secrets of My 90-Pound Weight-Loss Success

by Christine on July 19th, 2010

filed under Christine's Life Updates, Diet, Food, Nutrition, Exercise, Gastric Banding Surgery, General Information

8 Easy Secrets of My 90-Pound Weight-Loss Success

I have lost just about 90 pounds on this weight loss journey so far. My goal is to lose 100 pounds, and I am about 10 pounds shy of my goal. The end is finally in sight!

It’s hard not to compare my weight loss this time versus all the attempts at weight loss that I’ve made in the past. What am I doing differently this time versus previous times? What’s working? What tips do I have for others that want to lose weight?  This post explains exactly what I’ve learned so far, and why this is working for me and other attempts have not.

I want to preface this list with a quick comment about weight loss surgery. 17 months ago I had the gastric banding surgery. Yes, the surgery has helped me lose weight, but NO the surgery is not necessarily a magic tool that has enabled my weight loss. In fact, my surgeon told me that most people who have weight loss surgery aren’t successful at all! Why not? Because some people don’t change their habits, or learn to “eat around the band,” meaning that they are gobbling up ice cream and milk shakes, which may be “easy” to eat, but are smothered in calories. No, the surgery isn’t magic cure-all, but it has helped.

  1. Weight-Loss should be easy. I can’t stress this enough, and I know you’re probably sitting there looking at me like I’m off my rocker. I’m serious though. I’m devoting far less effort and energy into losing weight this time around than last time. Sure, this may be due in part to the weight-loss surgery, but not entirely.  You see, prior to my recent loss, I was: counting calories, measuring food. I was going out of my way to eat healthfully. I exercised a minimum of an hour a day, six days a week. I worked hard to find the perfect combination of cardio vs. weight training. I paid for a personal trainer. I paid for weight watchers. I obsessed over the scale. I tried Atkins, South Beach, Zone, Master Cleanser, and a zillion other fad diets. And you know what? Those fad diets are HARD because they force you to live dissimilarly than your usual lifestyle. Fad diets are hard work.  Let me repeat this: weight loss should be easy.  If you’re spending hours and hours a day actively “working on losing weight” then you need to take a step back and re-evaluate how you’re going about your weight loss. This time around I try hard to make good eating choices, but I don’t always get it right. (In the past, I’d be 100% diligent to my plans, but with ZERO success on the scale.)  I try to get some exercise in, but I don’t always succeed. The point is, I’m just trying to live well and do the best I can, but I’m not obsessing and going nuts over trying to lose weight, and you shouldn’t either. After all, don’t we have families and careers and more important things that we should be spending the better part of our time on?
  2. It’s 80% about the food and 20% about the exercise. When I first started out losing weight, I had all but given up on exercise. I don’t like working out. I don’t like going to the gym. At the start of my current journey, I had given so much blood, sweat, and tears at the gym with ZERO reward that I flat-out burnt myself out. So when this new weight loss journey began, I wasn’t exercising at all. It didn’t matter. I’m no scientist, but just an observation of mine: the more weight you have to lose, the less your weight loss is about the exercise. Instead, focus your attention on getting your eating under control, picking healthy options, eating often (more about that below).  As you start to lose weight, you’ll naturally have more energy and will pick up the exercise factor, as it fits into your life. As you inch closer to your goal weight, you should exercise more and more. Exercise is crucial to weight maintenance, but not so much about weight loss.  Because I’m so close to my goal weight, I exercise perhaps 3-4 times a week, but I don’t freak out about it if I miss a gym session.
  3. Eat small meals, and eat often. I realized about 30 pounds into my weight loss journey that I was no longer eating “meals” at all. Instead, I was grazing. Snacking. All day long. I’d nibble on this, and I’d nibble on that. This is entirely due to the band, and without the gastric band I never would have discovered this important aspect of weight loss.  So this is what my prior-to-weight-loss dieting attempts would look like: I’d either skip breakfast or have some oatmeal. For lunch I’d have a 6 inch sub from subway, with vinegar as dressing. For dinner I’d have some steamed veggies and grilled chicken. Period. The end.  The food choices were seemingly good, but I was eating too much, and only at two sittings. Your body apparently doesn’t like this. Today, I eat 5-6 times a day, but only 150-200 calories of food at any given sitting. I never eat a “meal” anymore.  The great thing about eating small portions of food is that I can pretty much eat whatever I want, and I think the variety is really healthy for my body. I’m less obsessed over eating “diet food” and allow myself to eat “real food” during these mini-meals.  (I eat a lot of soup these days, especially at restaurants, because it’s the perfect portion size!)
  4. Pay attention to your body, not the USDA. Okay, do a little math now. If I’m only eating 150 calories per meal, 6 times a day…that means I’m eating….900 calories a day? Say what? Are you crazy? No I’m not!  So in my quest to lose weight, I scrutinized how many calories a typical woman should be eating, according to the USDA.  They say 2,000 for a sedentary female 19 to 30 years old. BMR calculators told me I should eat 1,774 calories. Well, no wonder I wasn’t losing weight!  I was either trying to eat “just right” and follow one of those crazy guidelines, or pretty much starving myself trying to save as many calories as humanly possible.Now look. I’m not going to tell you to eat only 900 calories a day. I also don’t think you should listen to the USDA. Instead, listen to your own body. I truly believe that every person has their own calorie setpoint that they like to be at. For me, I think that my weight-stabilizing point is around 1000-1100 calories. To lose about a pound or two a week, I need to target 800-900 calories per day. This is the point that works for me, but it may not work for you. You need to experiment a little bit to figure out what your calorie setpoint is, but the only way you can do that is to pay close attention to your body.
  5. Avoid carbs, but don’t eliminate them entirely. I mostly eat whatever I want these days, but there are a few nit-picky little trends that I’ve identified. I don’t know if these really contribute to weight loss or not, but I figure they were worth mentioning.  Because of my gastric band, I avoid carbs. They get stuck in my stomach and it’s quite uncomfortable. Consequently, I just avoid eating bread products, pastries, pasta of any kind, French fries, rice, and things like that. That means no pizza!! Boohoo!! My favorite food is forevermore off limits to me! On the other hand, I don’t completely cut out the carbs. My opinion is that if you’re going to eat carbs, take them from real living plants: rice, potatoes, quinoa, etc.  Stay away from things that are mixed with man-made products (bread, pasta) and are refined, processed, and look nothing like their main ingredient anymore.
  6. Eat real food. Quit feeding yourself “fat-free” and “sugar-free” and “low-calorie” garbage. Look, the stuff is gross and for good reason: it’s not real food.  Treat yourself to real food, and yes, please eat foods that are rich in fat. I’m talking about real cheese. Avocados. Almonds. Eggs. Even indulge in real ice cream on rare occasions, and butter, and olive oil. (You know that candy bars and potato chips aren’t “real food,” so let’s not even go there.) Stay away from foods that are processed and refined and look for food that has real flavor.  Now, remember that I only eat 150 calories at any given sitting, so 150 calories of butter or cheese is not going to go very far. I might eat some hummus with 1 Tbs of feta cheese on tomato wedges. Or peanut butter on an apple slice. Watch your portion sizes carefully, but ahead and eat the real stuff.
  7. Stay away from soda, even diet soda. For that matter, avoid anything with man-made sweeteners, carbonated fizziness (which only helps to EXPAND your stomach), corn syrup, or processed crap.  Okay, I’ll have a beer maybe once a week, which I probably shouldn’t, but as a general rule I don’t consume sodas anymore. I used to drink Diet Pepsi like it was going out of style. No more!
  8. Drink water, but do so carefully. This is a little trick that my weight loss surgeon taught me.  One hour prior to eating, chug a shit-ton of water.  Then while you are eating your meal and for one hour following your meal, don’t drink anything.  The theory behind this is: (1) the water prior to your meal fills you up, and (2) avoiding water during your meal means that you are not physically flushing the food out of your stomach. Because the food remains in your stomach (3) you end up feeling fuller, for longer.  It really does work. Try it sometime.

BEFORE:

AFTER/IN PROGRESS (about 90 pounds lost):

Me (July 2010)

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Bachelorette Party #1

by Christine on July 18th, 2010

filed under Christine's Life Updates

Whew! What a weekend! Saturday I spent all day cleaning my house and decorating for a bachelorette party for my friend Stacey.  The Maid of Honor came over at 5 to prepare a few more things, then the party kicked off at 7 p.m.  We spent two hours drinking and eating and playing silly games like “Match the Hot Man to the Hot Body” and “How well do you know . Then we had an instructor come in to teach us how to belly dance! That was super fun, and my girlfriends were fantastic belly dancers! Of course, the best part were the belly dancing costumes! It’s fun to get dressed up!  Then we drank for another hour (I started to clean up the house) and the girls busted into the penis-shaped rice cookie sculpture.

Then the limo came to pick us up for a night of dancing.  The limo ride was everyone’s favorite thing of the night. It was just us being silly and goofy!  Then we all went dancing. Everyone had fun, but I HATE HATE HATE crowds. I get very clausterphobic when people start invading my personal space like that. I got bumped and jostled so much that I was literally wearing more of my cosmo than I had to drink from the glass. I was so pissed off, so I just went outside and waited for the group on the street. I was MUCH happier outside than inside. (But really…my style is much more to find a nice quiet jazz club with a bartender that knows how to make a good drink. Quiet place….quiet enough to have a conversation. THAT is my style! But it wasn’t my party now, was it?)

I eventually made it home at 2:30 a.m.  The damage wasn’t that bad…in the morning the scale was only up 0.5 pounds, but that means that I haven’t yet made my middle digit rollover (MDR)!! ARUGH!!!

Next weekend we are having Bachelorette Party #2 down in NYC! It’s going to be a blast, but I sure hope I tolerate the crowds okay.

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Common questions (with my answers) about the gastric banding surgery

by Christine on July 16th, 2010

filed under Gastric Banding Surgery, General Information

Gastric BandThese questions are based on keyword search terms in Google that directed visitors to my site. I hope these answers clarify some questions that you, my precious readers have about the procedure. If you ever have any questions about the surgery, you can always email me at: Sherazade96(at)hotmail(dot)com.

What are common gastric banding problems?

Great question! There are several complications that arise from the surgery itself as well as the band and port that are placed inside of you.  The most common complications, according to WebMD, are nausea and vomiting. These can be caused by the tightness of the band.  Minor surgical complications  (which occur less than 10% of the time) include problems with the adjustment device, wound infections, and minor bleeding. For instance, if the band is too tight or you “overeat” your band, you can cause the band to erode through your stomach lining.

Other possible risks include:

  • Band leakage
  • Acid reflux and/or vomiting
  • Erosion of the band into the stomach
  • Enlargement of the stomach pouch
  • Band slippage
  • Dehydration
  • No weight loss and/or weight regain
  • Blockage of the stomach outlet
  • Gas and bloating
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Ulceration
  • Gastritis

So what about me? What have been my complications?  I do have regular acid reflux (never had it prior to surgery) that I treat with a Nexium pill every three or four days, as needed.  I also had stomach pain at one point, so I went to the hospital and was told that I had three stomach ulcers. I suspect these were caused my an overly stressful work situation, but they could have been caused by the gastric band.  I also suffer from mild-but-annoying constipation (read more by clicking here).  Finally, I have a problem with a protruding port. This is most likely caused by my port coming detached from my abdominal muscles, but I haven’t seen my surgeon to verify this. (Click here to read more about port problems)

Risk of death due to this surgery is about 1 in 2,000 patients.

Does the gastric band hurt?

I guess the answer to this is “yes and no.”  Immediately following surgery, I had pain and discomfort. My neck/back/shoulders hurt like a mofo because of the gas they use to inflate your stomach during surgery. This gas escapes the body by creeping upwards to the shoulder area.  I also had pain where they attached the port to my abdominal muscles. In both cases, the pain subsided less than a week after surgery.

When I received fills, it did not hurt. An inflated band did not hurt me.

Since that time, my gastric band does not hurt and should not hurt its patients. I’ve lost a substantial amount of weight, and because my port is protruding (really, I need to see my doctor about that) I sometimes lean on it funny, so it aches. But this is abnormal. I do not believe that the gastric band should hurt after you have healed from surgery.

My gastric band is still sore after a year?

Like I said above, it may be somewhat common for the port site to rub against something and get a little tender. And, of course, after your fills you should be a little swollen in the band/stomach area. Otherwise, But if your band hurts, much less a whole year after surgery, this is not normal! It indicates to me that you might be experiencing band erosion or an infection or something. Go see your doctor.

What are potential problems with the port after gastric banding?

The three most common problems specifically associated with the port are: port displacements, port rupture, and port infection.  Port displacement is where the port comes detached from the abdominal muscles, so it ends up kind of floating around. (This is currently what I am experiencing.)  Port rupture is where the seal on the port is not tight, and therefore leaks liquid (saline) into the body.  Tearing of the silicone rubber can be a manufacturing problem or can be caused the injection needle wiggling it loose.  Port infection usually presents itself early after band placement, according to a 2008 study.

Why can’t you eat celery with gastric banding?

Hmmm, curious question, but I like it! I’m going to guess that it is caused by the “shredded” nature of the celery stalk. You know how you can “shred” the celery like you can with string cheese? I’m going to guess that the celery shreds get wrapped up and caught in the small stomach opening, exactly the same way that long hair can get caught in a shower drain.  I recommend chopping the celery up horizontally into chunks (“against the grain”) like you would see it in a crock of soup. Then you should be fine.

What happens if you spit up your food after having gastric banding?

This is totally common!  When you eat something that is too chunky, you don’t chew well enough, or perhaps is too doughy and clumps up in your band, then that food will sit on top of your stomach opening and have nowhere to go. Then, your body starts producing saliva (often called “sliming”) in order to try to break that food down with enzymes.  If you’re stuck really good, then that saliva will just build up. Then BOOM! You need to go puke your food up. This is really common, so get used to it. Learn to chew really, really well.

Is it common to be gassy with the gastric band?

This is one of the common side-effects of the gastric band.  My personal experience is this: for about 4 months following the surgery, holy smokes I was gassy! I farted maybe 100 times a day. It was pretty much silent and not-smelly, but it happened all the freaking time.  Eventually as my stomach started getting used to this new device gripping it, my body stopped producing so much gas. Nowadays, I’m back to a “normal” gassy state, as I was prior to surgery.  However, I wouldn’t be surprised if some people experience gas forevermore. I appear to be a “forevermore” person with my acid reflux; I assume gas would be a similar issue.

Should I be able to feel the port inside the stomach after having gastric banding surgery?

Well, the port isn’t inside the stomach.  The band is around the stomach and no, you shouldn’t be able to feel that through your skin! You’ll certainly notice the band as you start to get it tightened though!  But perhaps you mean the port.  For most people, the port is either located near your belly button or it is placed just under your sternum/breastbone. Can you feel the port through the skin? Initially, probably not. Most people have a substantial amount of fat covering the port, so it shouldn’t be really noticeable unless you press hard. As you lose weight, it will become more and more noticeable! This is a good thing: it means you’re losing weight!  Eventually, YES, you will certainly be able to feel it and, perhaps, even see it through the skin.

Is loss of appetite with the gastric band common?

Yes and no.  I mean, the gastric band is supposed to reduce the amount that you eat, but it does not necessarily work like a diet pill in actually suppressing your appetite.  So, theoretically your appetite should remain intact.  However, many people may notice that at certain points—especially immediately following a fill—that your appetite gets killed. I think this is normal, and eventually you’ll get hungry again. If loss of appetite becomes an ongoing problem, you may want to talk to your doctor about it. It could mean that your band is too tight.

Currently, I eat about 5 or 6 small meals per day. I eat to the point of fullness, then I stop. However, because I’m eating very few calories, I get hungry again 1-2 hours later. So I eat again. And so on. I DO feel hunger. Frequently.  I hope that explanation helps a bit!

If the doctor okays a gastric band how long does it take to have surgery?

That totally depends on your doctor and how long his/her waiting list is, and how long it takes for you to get approval from your insurance company. This could potentially be a very long process. For me, it probably took about 4 months after my doc okayed me for surgery.  For instance:

  1. First I met with my doctor to get evaluated and given a basic health physical. Let’s say that was at the end of October.
  2. My doctor then okayed me for surgery, pending the okay of several  people.  Let’s say this was November 1st.
  3. For the whole month of November I had a series of doctor’s appointments: a psychological visit, pre-hospital testing involving x-rays, a vile milkshake of barium to drink with more x-rays, and respiratory tests.  I also had to get a letter of approval from my GP.
  4. January I started my Medifast diet.  I had 8 weeks to lose 10% of my total body weight. I weighed 225 so I had 22 pounds to lose.
  5. Mid-February I had more testing to do at the hospital to clear me for surgery.
  6. I had my surgery at the end of February.

Why can’t I access the port to my gastric band?

The only reason that I can think of is that the port site has moved. The reason why it moved could be that it has dislocated itself from your abdominal muscle.  Also, it could be that the rubber silicone area of the port (where the needle is inserted) may have malfunctioned. Either way, this is not good, not common, and you should ask your doctor what you need to do to fix it. I’m not a surgeon, but I’m going to guess that you’ll need to have surgery to replace the port or to get it re-attached properly.

Gastric band port came through my skin…what now?

Yowch!! But, I’m facing a similar threat because of my port site! Go see the doctor IMMEDIATELY! An open wound like that can easily get infected. See a doctor now! Go! Shoo!

Interesting in learning more about the procedure? Have questions that aren’t answered? Then check out these pages:

Here are some resources about difficulties I’ve personally had with the band:

I know that there are other gastric banders reading this blog post. Can you offer any personal insights into the questions posed above?

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