Gastric Banding Questions & Answers

by Christine on June 20th, 2011

filed under Christine's Life Updates, Gastric Banding Surgery

These list of questions courtesy of LapBandGal! Please feel free to share your answers, as well!

What would you say is the most important lesson or lessons you’ve learned about eating since you’ve been banded, and how has this contributed to your weight loss?

I’ve outlined my eight major lessons at the top of this blog under “How I’ve lost 99 pound” (which is really “how I’ve lost 102 pounds.”)  The key things are: eating a lot less and more often; eating real foods instead of processed foods; paying attention to your own body and not dumb FDA calorie guidelines; and stay away from soda.

If you’ve experienced any discouraging set back moments, how did you deal with them, how long did they take to pass– and what sort of specific strategies might you suggest that could work?

The more disappointing set-backs were when I was first banded. My first four-or-so fills didn’t work. I didn’t lose a single pound for 6 months following surgery. This is because my nurse practitioner kept missing my port site during injections (because I have a displaced band). No feeling of restriction, no weight loss. I was sooooo frustrated and angry! However, after I demanded to only receive fills directly from my surgeon, I quickly noticed the benefits and effects of the band, and the weight loss was consistent after that.

Have you ever worried about being a complete failure at the band, and then gotten over that worry– if so: did you tell yourself certain things that helped or do certain activities that reassured you?

I was terrified when I got the band that the surgery would fail me. After all, I had done every diet known to mankind. I had learned about nutrition, ate fantastically, exercised like mad. I saw seven different doctors, personal trainers, nutritionists, and nothing helped me to lose weight. In fact, I just gained and gained. It was horribly disappointing. When I got the band, I was so scared to place any kind of HOPE into the surgery. I was afraid that it would fail me.  When the weight started to come off, I could finally start to believe that weight loss was possible.

What is the proudest accomplishment you’ve made relative to your band journey thus far?

Oh gosh, there are so many Victories that I have had! Running a half marathon.  Doing a ropes-course challenge. Completing a boot camp. Wearing my wedding dress and seeing it fall off me like a tent. Buying a Size 2 and having it fit. The first time I looked in the mirror and said “Huh. I look okay” instead of what I have been saying for my entire life, “God you are so ugly. Who could possibly stand to look at you?”

What is the most difficult thing about having the band and what makes it worth it anyway?

The hardest part for me now is trying to explain the barfing episodes to people that don’t understand. “I’m not bulimic; it’s just the band working!”  I often have problems with barfing episodes when I am at restaurants…most likely because I”m too busy talking and not chewing well enough. I’ve had several instances where I’ve had to run to the restaurant bathroom to clear out the food bottleneck inside me, and there is a teenage girl in the bathroom at the same time as me. When the barfing episode comes on, it’s kind of an emergency situation–I can’t wait for everyone to empty the restroom so I can get on with my business. And I know how impressionable teenage girls can be. They see a 30-something year old thinnish woman come into a bathroom after eating a meal and barf in the toilet. What are they going to think? Every time that happens I want to talk to the girl through the wall and explain that it’s a medical thing, but that seems creepy and weird… I really think that’s the hardest part about this whole experience. It makes me feel so guilty, like I’m contributing to young girls developing eating disorders. SIGH.

Given the choice, would you be too tight or too loose and why?  How would you handle either situation if you couldn’t get in to your doctor for 4 weeks?

Too tight!!  Because if I was too loose I know that I would overeat. I just would.  I wouldn’t care if I couldn’t get in to see my doctor for four weeks. Something the wait IS that long! It would give me time to decide if I really wanted a fill (or un-fill).

What are your 3 to 5 ‘desert island band foods’– things you WOULD NOT/ could not/ don’t want to live without? What do you eat virtually every day and why?

Soup (tomato soup if I had to choose)
Salad fixins
Fresh fish (I prefer white fish, like cod or perch)

How many meals do you generally eat per day and at what times?

When I was losing weight regularly, I ate every just about every 2-3 hours, and 100-150 calories per “meal”:
8 a.m.; 10 a.m.; 12 p.m.; 2 p.m.; 5 p.m.; 8 p.m.

These days I know I SHOULD eat at the same regular intervals and same small portion sizes, but I find myself slacking off on it. I eat more like this now:

8 a.m. (coffee only); 12 p.m.; 3 p.m.: 7 p.m.; 9 p.m.

Do you exercise, and if so, about how much? Do you think exercise has been pivotal to your weight loss?

Keep in mind, prior to getting surgery, I was trying EVERYTHING to lose weight, and that included LOTS of exercise.  I exercised for an hour and a half, 6-7 days a week. After I got surgery, I exercised a LOT less.  I went to the gym maybe twice a week (usually weight training only; no cardio), then supplemented the rest of the time with roller blading, bicycle riding, yoga classes (sometimes); boot camp (sometimes) and other fun recreational things like hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, etc. (but those activities weren’t regular…only every-now-and-then.) So, although I was still exercising, in my mind I was exercising substantially LESS after surgery than before surgery.  Therefore, I say that exercise had less impact on my weight loss than food/intake did, but I don’t want you to think that I wasn’t doing any exercise at ALL.

After running my half marathon in December, I’ve kind of stopped exercising. I can feel the effects (I’m tired more often) and can see the effects (my skin is more flabby; I’m less toned). I should and want to work out more, but I’m trying to find ways to work out outside or by doing fun things instead of simply going to the gym. However, I won’t ever get rid of my gym membership. I never want to have an excuse about why I’m being lazy.


New product alert!

by Christine on June 17th, 2011

filed under Christine's Life Updates, Diet, Food, Nutrition

I LOVE these Oceanspray White Cran-Peach flavor packets! Only 5 calories. Just add to a 12 oz bottle of water. Seriously yum!

However, it is flavored with aspartame, which is known to be harmful (and weigh-loss prohibitive) in large quantities, so use sparingly. (seriously. Click that link above. Great article about aspartame. And if you’re going to poo-poo it for being from a non-reputable source, a lot of the same information can be found here, except the language is a lot more straight-forward in the first article.)


Gastric Banding: Mushy Foods Phase

by Christine on June 16th, 2011

filed under Diet, Food, Nutrition, Gastric Banding Surgery

Here is a list of foods that you can consider eating during the mushy foods phase, following your gastric banding surgery. Keep two things in mind here:

(1) One of the main reasons why you are on “mushy foods” is because the band is placed very loosely around your stomach. That means that if you rush into solid foods and you get into a barfing fit, the heaving of your stomach may cause the band to slip. Furthermore, your stomach is still swollen from surgery so we want to make sure you don’t stuff yourself with big, chunky food and further cause the band to slip out of place.

(2) The band affects everyone differently. Different foods affect different patients differently. For instance, ice-cold drinks, while indeed “mushy” are apt to leave my stomach constricted, so I have a tendency to barf when I drink too much ice-cold milk or milkshakes. Others would have no problem with that. So just go easy on yourself.

Okay! With that said, here are a few ideas:

  • Soup! My favorite! Any soup without chunks should be fine. I swear I lived on Paneras Tomato Soup for months following surgery. Egg drop soup, broth,
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Tunafish (mixed either with mayo or spicy brown mustard)
  • Pureed beans
  • Applesauce
  • Mashed bananas
  • Hummus
  • Guacamole (no chunks!)
  • Very soft cheese, like Brie
  • Ricotta cheese with pasta sauce on it
  • Protein shakes
  • Yogurt
  • Jello
  • Pudding
  • Ground beef or turkey in VERY SMALL chunks
  • Tofu
  • Puree some Italian meatballs and add pasta sauce to it

Foods to avoid during this stage:

  • Potatoes (even mashed potatoes, until you learn if you can eat it safely)
  • Bread
  • Rice and rice-like products (like polenta, etc)
  • Carbonated beverages (it distends your stomach)
  • Oatmeal (unless you make it reaaaaaaaly watery)
  • Pineapples
  • Celery
  • Broccoli
  • Oranges, grapefruits, and other citrus foods (the acid may hurt & the membrane may get stuck)
  • Tough meats (steak, pork, etc)

Other items of note:

  • If you haven’t already purchased Gummy Vitamins at your local store, do so now! You need a multi-vitamin since your food choices are so limited, and DO NOT attempt to swallow a bit horse-pill ever again.  Gummy Vitamins will be your new best friend!

If you have other suggestions for recipes or mushy foods that work, add them in the comments below! I will link to this post from my Gastric Banding info resource (link at the top of the page).


Remembering the start of Banded life

by Christine on June 15th, 2011

filed under Christine's Life Updates, Gastric Banding Surgery

The last few days I’ve been prowling Blogland finding a few newly-banded people out there. It is such a joy and pleasure to read about their experiences because, really, those first few months are the most exciting because you are so full of hope, full of energy and excitement to get that weight-loss ball moving, and the future is so full of good things for each and every one of these bloggers!

Today I met Jenny from Goodbye Muffintop. She has a little different experience with the gastric band–and it’s one I can totally relate to.  It’s been a few months since she had her surgery, and (1) her port is apparently flipped around, and (2) although she’s losing a smidgen of weight, she doesn’t feel any restriction. The band just isn’t working for her.

I can totally relate. When I started off on my journey, I was so frustrated. Here I went through this pretty major surgery full of hope and excitement that FINALLY I could get my life turned around and my weight under control. Immediately I knew something was wrong with my port, and apparently the first five-or-so fills I had were completely ineffective; the Nurse Practitioner was injecting saline into who-knows-where in my belly–NOT in my band!!–so i wasn’t getting any restriction. In the first six months I didn’t lose a single pound! Man, was I frustrated!

But in the end we got it sorted out. I finally demanded to see my surgeon who, after a quick check, saw that I didn’t have any saline in my band. So he filled me up properly (I always get my fill directly from my surgeon henceforth; no more jerking around with NPs for me!). Still, as I lost weight, it was obvious that my port was indeed flipped around, and the more weight I lost, the more noticible it was.  (I’m currently en route to get a port re-attachment surgery.)

The whole journey–even the frustrating bits at the beginning–were totally worth it. My only regret is that I didn’t have the surgery years earlier.  Every heart-ache was worth it in the end.

And speaking of heart-aches, I’m reminded by some of these new bloggers how scary the whole Gastric-Band-Puking-Thing can be. Some people call it PB-ing, some call it sliming, etc. Whatever you want to call it, it can be pretty disturbing when you’re starting off.

But really (and I’m speaking to all you new bandsters now)…the whole barfing thing is something that you’re going to have to live with, accept, and learn to deal with.  And it’s not really as scary as it might seem at first because on this journey you will learn what triggers a barf-a-thon and learn to avoid those foods. You learn to chew a lot more thoroughly. You learn to take smaller bites. You learn to take big breaks in between chewing.  And really, the barfing isn’t all that bad either–not like normal barfing–because you’re only puking up the food that is caught ABOVE the band. You’re not barfing up food that is in your stomach, which means no stomach acid is getting out. Oh, I’m not saying that the barfing episodes are PLEASANT, but it’s not as scary as it might seem at first.

The worst part about those episodes is when they occur when you are out in public. In fact, one of my most embarrassing and gross ones happened in April–two years after banding for me!  I was on the beach at a restaurant with friends. I was eating chips + salsa, which are totally safe foods for me, but I was talking and not chewing well, and sure enough I started to get bottled up. And sliming. Hubby asked the waitress for directions to the bathroom and she told me they didn’t have one. So with four tables all looking at me I had to grab a glass off the table and barf into it. Man, that was gross AND embarrassing!

All of us banders have those stories, though, and you are going to have your own stories to tell by the end of this journey of yours. It is just one more part of the whole banding experience though, so embrace it.  It all leads to Weight Loss in the end!!


How balanced should you be?

by Christine on June 14th, 2011

filed under Christine's Life Updates

So here’s what I’m thinking this morning, and maybe it’s my overly-obsessive, calorie-counting mind that is over-thinking things a little bit.

In an ideal world, we wouldn’t eat crap food or overindulge. I understand that optimal, healthy food choices and reasonable portion sizes are the ideal thing to strive for. But let’s face it, even the strongest-willed person can cave every now and then; 100% saintly eating just isn’t reasonable.

Well, on Sunday night we had friends come over to the house. I am always really excited to have guests because it means I can cook foods that I normally don’t (because hubby doesn’t eat it). I made bratwurst (what a treat!), hamburgers, fresh salad, homemade salad dressing, and pasta salad. Our friends brought over chocolate cake and rice krispy treats.   I had 1 bratwurst–no bun of course–and some fresh salad.  Until evening. Then I dove into that chocolate cake, pretty much head-first, like a baby attacking his first birthday cake. It’s weird because I normally don’t even like chocolate cake. But it was there, and I was PMSing, and I did some damage.

Let me tell you, it didn’t feel good. I felt sick to my stomach from the sugar. The taste wasn’t even all that great. And afterwards I started playing head games with myself:

How do I fix this mishap?

There’s three ways to go about this. First, there’s the balanced reaction. In order to balance a huge caloric mishap, shouldn’t you need to go to extreme measures in cutting your calories the next day or two in order to make up for the indulgence?  I mean, really restrict your calories until you’ve reset yourself to “ground zero?”  If your cake indulgence was, say 1400 calories, then cut 467 calories out of your diet for the next three days.  For me, since my Calorie Setpoint is somewhere around 800 calories, that would leave me 333 calories per day, for three days, to consume. That’s way extreme. But it IS balanced.

The next reaction is similar to the first: Burn those extra calories at the gym. In the end, the goal is the same as the first reaction: you’re balancing your calories. Except with this method you’re choosing to burn it with exercise instead of through food and diet.  If I exert myself with high-intensity interval training (read about that here), I can burn 700 calories per gym outing for two days to burn those extra cake-calories off.

But then there’s the third reaction: just go back to your normal eating. Eat nice balanced meals, at your Optimal Calorie Threshold, and basically just pretend that the OOPS never happened.

Which method do you take to counter-act your Oops? What is the correct answer?

I can tell you that, as an Eating Disordered person, I gravitate to the first method. I know I can control my food intake, and I can starve for as long as I need to in order to reset my calorie bank to equilibrium (read that story here).  It is drastic, and on the positive side it can balance you out in a day or two. On the other hand, this method theoretically screws up your metabolism.

I then gravitate to the second option.  Exercise. Punnish yourself. Beat yourself up. Sweat until you hurt and want to scream and teach yourself that having a weak will and eating that cake just isn’t worth the pain and suffering at the gym.  Yeah, it’s sadistic but haven’t we all done this, many times, in the past?  The benefit is that exercise is great for you, it boosts your metabolism. The downfall is that it can take longer to reset your calorie bank to zero (especially if you’re only burning 200-300 calories at a single gym outing) and you can really beat yourself up mentally with this method. At least, I know I can. I’m actually more likely to indulge in that cake when I’m done with the gym because, after 2 hours of telling myself how weak-willed, stupid, ugly, fat, and horrible I am, I need to console my bleeding heart with more chocolate cake.  It’s a viscious cycle, at least for me.

But then there’s the last method: Move forwards as normal and pretend the slip-up never happened. The benefit is that your mental health doesn’t take a beating, there’s no need for punishment.  The downside is that it may take a very long time for those chocolate cake calories to be reset, and you may not have the chance to learn from past mistakes.

All my life, I’ve been a drastic-action-taker. I have starved and exercised myself into exhaustion after dumb eating choices, and it just made me fatter and fatter and fatter.  One of the things that changed with the lap band surgery is that I stopped punnishing myself for indulging every now and then and I took the last method: I just move forwards, doing whatever I was doing normally, and pretended that the mishaps never happened.

And I lost weight.

It’s still hard for me, this big mental change of pace. After eating that cake on Sunday, I still wanted to starve myself silly the next day. Instead, I am carefully choosing a normal, healthy choice of meals in order to move forwards. Yesterday, in my “punishment day” I ate a perfectly normal amount of calories for me, and chose healthy options all day. Today will be the same.  But I’m on watch for myself, to make sure I don’t start slipping into extreme reactions.

My brain doesn’t believe that this will work, but the last 2 years (losing 100+ pounds, reaching my goal weight) tells me that it will. Hmmm.

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