Leaving for Europe!

by Christine on June 5th, 2012

filed under Christine's Life Updates, General Information

Good morning Revolutionists!

Weight check-in: 128 pounds. Right where I want to be.
Band status: A little problematic
Exercise status: Doing well! Picking it up a bit!

Exciting news! Tomorrow I leave for a 10-day trip in Europe! Well, factoring in travel time, it will be a 14 day trip. I’m very excited and can’t wait to embark on this adventure! My itinerary is as follows:

* Fly to Copenhagen and spend 2 days with a friend there.
* Board a cruise ship. Head to Berlin, Germany.
* Tallinn, Estonia
* 2 days in St. Petersburg, Russia
* Helsinki, Finland
* Stockholm, Sweden
* Back to Copenhagen
* 1 day layover in Iceland on the way home

I’ve been to Europe many times (I lived over there for a year, actually) and have been fortunate to do a lot of traveling, but I have never been to any of these countries before! I am very excited to explore new places and to see my dear friend in Copenhagen!

Even more importantly, I get to see where my family comes from. I am half Danish and half Russian (I’m actually first-generation American on my mother’s side), and getting to see where my people come from will be pretty awesome. Actually, getting to experience Russia with my mother will be a really momentous occasion. (Read more about why by reading this old post.) I’m looking for to it, for sure.

On the other hand, there are some things I’m really nervous about. For starters, I think any mother/daughter trip can be nervewracking. Why is it that mothers and daughters have the most complex relationships, involving so much baggage and competitiveness?  It’s very odd. I think any woman would be stressed to spend 10 days stuck on a ship with her mom, but considering that my mother and I don’t have a history of getting along well, it’s particularly anxiety-producing for me. I’m working hard at not dwelling on this negative associated with the trip (after all, where would dwelling on it get me, except to be over-sensitive?) but I feel my nerves tightening with each impending hour.

I’m also nervous for lots of gastric-band related reasons: What if I can’t find any food that I eat? What if I have to barf and I can’t find a bathroom? Will I overeat on the cruise and gain weight?

At any rate, it will be an interesting, epic trip! I can’t wait to start it!

As for my band, not all is well in paradise. For starters, it is way, way too tight. I can’t keep going at this rate, even though it’s been this tight for about 6 months now.  If I retain even a little bit of water, it’s so tight that even milk won’t go down.  No bueno.  I called my doctor’s office to get an un-fill, but the soonest they can get me in is a month from now (holy shit!) so I am stuck with a too-tight band for this vacation. I’m disheartened that my doctor’s office was not more flexible for me.

Secondly: I’ve been coughing at night a lot. Every night, actually. I wake up in the middle of the night with the feeling that something is caught in my throat. Cough-cough-cough. And, it sometimes escalates until (eeek, sorry this really TMI) I accidentally barf on myself in bed.

I don’t know what’s going on exactly–I haven’t talked to my surgeon about this. But I have a theory. I believe my upper stomach has either expanded or my band has slipped.  So my upper stomach has a bulge or a pooch…and food gets stuck in the bulge and irritates me at night. I don’t know what the fix for this would be. I’m hoping that merely loosening my band will solve this problem, but I’m worried that the solution will be a surgery to fix the placement of the band. That’s why I have been too chicken to make an appointment with my doctor. I’m not up for another surgery. I’m worried about what he says the problem is, and I’m worried about his solution for fixing the problem. Not to mention I don’t want to go through all the testing, the awful barium drink, the x-rays, etc. No, I’ll just get an un-fill and see if that fixes the problem first.

I’ll keep you posted, of course, about what’s happening in my band-land.

Thanks for reading, and check back in 2 weeks for pics of my vacation!

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I remember when!

by Christine on November 2nd, 2011

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

3 years ago, I’d go to Moe’s for lunch and eat a whole Triple Lindy (which is a burrito with rice, pinto beans, steak, shredded cheese, salsa, guacamole).

Calories: 845, not even including the side of potato chips they give you, which is easily another 400-800 calories. No joking, kiddos.

I can’t believe selling food that high in calories is even legal. It’s not even tasty!

Or my co-workers would head over to the Cheesecake Factory. I’d have the Pasta Carbonera, which has 2134 calories. Granted, I wouldn’t eat it all, but I’d eat a good 3/4s of it.

Oh my. Those were the days, huh?

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The daily grind

by Christine on October 13th, 2011

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

Not much happening here.  On Tuesday we went to trivia, and I brought my Nook with me to read. (Hubby and his friends talk about their geek topics, and I get bored.) Well, I forgot my Nook at the bar! Oh no! I went there the next day at lunchtime and spoke to the manager. He has security cameras all over the place apparently, and found where I left the bar and left the Nook on the table…then the waitress came by and put it in her schoolbooks in the back! He called the waitress and she was all, “Oh yeah, yeah, I accidentally brought it home with me, I’ll bring it back to the bar tomorrow…”  OMG!

Intake Wednesday:
8 a.m.: Yogurt (80) and half a small can of red bull (60)
Noon: Some chicken caesar salad, most of which I barfed up in a “sliming” episode (100), diet coke
4 p.m.: Apple cider (120)
7 p.m.: Tomato Soup with skim milk (175), water
8 p.m.: Some chocolate, approx. halloween-sized (70)
Total Calories: 605

Intake Tuesday:
8 a.m.: Yogurt (80) and some diet coke
Noon: Paneras: Black bean soup (110) and a classic cafe salad (80), diet coke
4 p.m.: Red jello with fresh berries in it (40), water
7 p.m.:  (at bar, for trivia) 1 bowl clam chowder soup (300) and 2 beers (300)
Total calories: 910

Intake Monday:
8 a.m.: Banana (110) and coffee (90)
Noon:  Salad (100) and water
7 p.m.: About 3 oz sirloin with marinade (190), baked potato (35) and some butter (50), skim milk (120)
Total Calories:  695

Oh my…I’m surprisingly low on calories this week!  I just haven’t felt all that hungry, I guess. Perhaps tonight I’ll indulge in a yummy salad or some fish… This week my scale has been good to me: in the 120’s all week (127 today), and that number is really indicative of the low calories I suppose!

I’ve been jonesing for some mexican food.  I think sometime soon I will make a mexican concoction: a mix of ground beef, mushrooms, and black beans, mixed in taco sauce, and put over a nice green salad, with perhaps a sprinkle of cheese on top. Yum!  If you add mushrooms to your mexican meat, you can cut out a lot of calories without compromising on the taste.

I had to throw a bunch of food away from my refrigerator yesterday. It reminded me of one of the downsides to the gastric band: you really become a food spoiler! I always have leftovers, and I never seem to get to it all. So the food goes bad before I can manage to eat it. Boo! What a waste!

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Gastric Band Surgery Q&A Part 2

by Christine on October 4th, 2011

filed under Christine's Life Updates, Gastric Banding Surgery

Periodically I go into the Google Analytics of my website and discover that some viewers are asking questions about the gastric banding surgery and looking for the answers at my website. Here is the lastest group of “Questions and Answers” about the gastric banding surgery that might be of use to new bandsters.  This is Part 2 of the Q&A. Read Part 1 of the Q&A here.

 

How do I know if my gastric band is too tight?
If you cannot take a swig of water immediately after a fill, then your gastric band is definitely too tight. That’s the easy part.  However, finding the right balance between “tight enough to lose weight and be happy” and “too tight” might be a difficult balance to achieve. I know that I struggle with this almost 3 years after surgery! If you are finding that you cannot eat enough calories to survive (you know, if you’re dizzy and having a hard time concentrating because you’re not eating enough), then your band is too tight. If you find yourself choosing protein shakes, milkshakes, ice cream, and soup all the time because anything more solid than that is painful, then your band is too tight. If you find yourself barfing during most meals because your food is always getting stuck, then your band is probably too tight.

All that being said, I like to have my band pretty tight—maybe even tighter than most people. I know that I can’t eat certain foods, especially breads and pastas. Just because I can’t eat certain foods doesn’t mean that my band is too tight. I know a lot of bandsters that can no longer eat steaks or dry chicken. Again, this is normal and not necessarily an indication that the band is too tight. On the other hand, if you simply cannot be happy unless you have steak, and you find your band too tight to eat steak, then you might want to consider getting some saline taken out.

All in all, there’s no real hard and fast rule about finding whether the band is too tight or not. It’s really a matter of personal preference. However, a good rule of thumb is that if you cannot swallow any liquid, or if you have problems eating solid foods of any kind, then you should definitely loosen your band a bit. Other than that, it’s a matter of what you can live with or not.

 

How long is the gastric band waiting list?
Honestly, I think it depends on what region of the world you live in, what hospital you are going to, what surgeon you are seeing, etc. I know in the UK, the country only allocates a certain amount of money for the gastric band surgery, and so you might be on the waiting list for quite a while. According to www.gastricband.org.uk the waiting list in the UK can vary from anywhere between 3 months to four years.

I was banded in upstate New York, USA. I was not placed on any waiting list. Once I completed all my pre-surgery testing and requirements, I was immediately put on the pre-surgery diet. My surgeons gave me 2 months to lose 25 pounds on the pre-surgery protein shake diet, and as soon as I lost that weight I had my surgery. And yes, my insurance paid for the surgery in its entirety, but that really depends on your insurance carrier, your health background, the hospital you’re going to, and a lot of other factors.

I really recommend you check out the forums at www.lapbandtalk.com, especially the regional forums to inquire about this question.  (FYI, LapBandTalk.com is free to use and is a fantastic resource for anyone considering the banding surgery.)

 

Does gastric banding hurt?
Yes, the surgery itself does. But I personally found it to be a tolerable pain, that did not last very long (only a few days…maybe 7-10 days) and went away little by little, every day.  I’ve read other blogs from banders that found the pain to be too much, too intense, and last too long. I think part of the pain has to do with your tolerance, as well as your surgeon’s capabilities.

The band should not hurt once your body has healed from the surgery. If you are in pain several week or months following your surgery, you should definitely talk to your surgeon to find out what’s going on.

Will throwing up hurt the gastric band?
Fantastic question!

In my personal opinion and experience, I think all bandsters experience purging/throwing up due to food getting stuck in the band. Bandsters have all kinds of terminology for this experience, such as “sliming” or “B/Ping” etc.  This is a very common occurrence, especially once the band gets close to your “sweet spot,” which is the optimal tightness that allows you to live and eat happily but still allow you to lose weight.

Despite the common occurrence of the purging episodes, throwing up can hurt the gastric band, so you should really be careful about it. I believe the band is most vulnerable during the early stages of the process, when the band is deflated and fits loosely on the stomach. If you have a violent barfing episode, the heaving of the stomach can dislodge the location of the band around the stomach, thereby reducing the effectiveness of it. If the band becomes dislodged, you might not realize it right away. The doctor can find if the band has moved by using an X-Ray, or if after a few weeks or months you are not losing weight.

However, it also makes sense to me that barfing can hurt the band if it is filled with saline and tighter. When you are heaving, your stomach might press against the band with such a force that it could rupture the band. (Think of it like squeezing against a full balloon. What happens? The balloon explodes!) If your band “pops” like a balloon, the only way to fix this is by replacing it with another surgery.

All that being said, I’ve personally never heard of anyone having these problems – either band slippage or band “poppage”—because of a barfing episode. It’s just something to be aware of and watch out for. I think this is relatively rare.

 

Why has the gastric band come loose?
Oh dear! Your gastric band may have come loose for a number of reasons. Perhaps there’s a leak in the band itself, in the tube, or the port, or in any of the connections. There’s a lot of ways a leak can occur in the whole gastric band mechanical system. The band could also be loose if it merely has slipped from its ideal location. For instance, if it slips up the stomach, you probably would feel like it is very loose.

These are very serious causes, and only your surgeon can fix these problems if they occur. However, there might be a fairly simple reason for your band feeling a little looser. Your band is a semi-permeable membrane, which means that your band can actually absorb and release liquid through its lining! A lot of bandsters feel like their bands get tighter when they are stressed out, or feel like they get looser when they are dehydrated, like after a night of drinking. Therefore your band might feel a little bit loose just because you’re dehydrated. Eat something salty and drink a lot of water and see if your band feels any better in a day or two.

If you suddenly feel like your band is much looser than it was before, then you really should make an appointment to see your surgeon. He can check to see the saline level in the band or do an X-ray to see if the band has slipped, both of which are fairly painless and non-invasive tests.

 

Does a gastric band affect pregnancy?
The gastric band does not have to negatively affect pregnancy, but it’s important to understand the unique concerns that expecting mothers might have. Read my article about pregnancy and the gastric band here.

 

Can gastric band slip and then go back again?
If your gastric band has slipped from its location around your stomach, it’s possible but unlikely that it would go back again. If it slips, it is most likely to stay “slipped” until your surgeon goes back to replace it in the correct location.  Sorry! I stand corrected! See Angela’s comment at the very end of this post. Angela said that this very thing happened to her…her band slipped out of place. She had an un-fill, and then the problem corrected itself.  I had no idea that this was possible. Interesting, and thank you for sharing Angela!

 

Can you feel the gastric band through the skin?
No, you cannot feel the gastric band through the skin, but you may be able to feel the gastric band’s port through the skin. The port is the receptacle where your surgeons inject the saline. Read more about the components of the gastric band system in this article.

 

Gastric banding menus
Here are some resources for finding out what to eat –or not eat!—with the gastric band:

  •  This page lists the post-surgery diet requirements, as well as a list of foods that are typically not processed well by band patients.
  • Here is a list of mushy food ideas.
  • This forum has a lot of great food ideas.
  • This website has some food ideas.  

 

How much food can I eat during the mushy stage?
You should only be eating no more than a cup of mushy foods at any given sitting.

 

How do you locate the lap band port to make it unnoticeable?
It’s unlikely that a severely overweight person can see the port through their skin. However, as you lose weight and get closer to your goal weight, the port may become noticeable, either by touch or by site. I had many talks with my surgeon about this very topic of moving my port (which had become dislocated) to a place less noticeable. There are a variety of locations where your surgeon can put the port to minimize its appearance through your skin, from putting it under the abdomen, moving it to your side, etc.  Read about these options in more detail here.

 

Will the port from my gastric band protrude if I lose a lot of weight?
It might, possibly yes.  See this page for some ideas about moving the port if it is really bothering you.    Please note that the different banding systems have a different profile port. For instance, the Lap Band system uses a port that has a higher profile, which means that it sticks out further than other systems.  I have a Realize Band system, which uses a smaller profile port, which means that it’s flatter and thinner than the Lap Band system. However, many surgeons find the Realize Band port to be difficult to access when the patient is very overweight and has a lot of fat covering the port. It’s difficult to find where the port is because it is so much flatter, so the doctor might have to jab around with the needle a little more to find the injection site. Even more reason to find a surgeon with a  lot of experience, so you can minimize the needle-jabbing process!   My surgeon told me that a lot of doctors put a smaller profile port on male patients and a higher profile port on female patients. Doctors do this based on their experience and comfort level. You should discuss the type of hardware that he’s putting in you before your surgery, so you are aware of what you’re getting. Don’t forget that you can have an opinion about what kind of system you receive from your surgeon!

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Running victory & delicious food!

by Christine on November 3rd, 2010

filed under Christine's Life Updates

Happy Wednesday Revolutionists!

I am writing this from Starbucks. I’m enjoying a small Gingerbread Latte, a treat for myself! I love going to a coffee shop, listening in on the conversations around me, the accoustic blends on the radio (currently jazz, at this Starbucks), watching the people come and go. I like asking myself, “Where are they going? Are they having a good day? What’s their story?” People watching is great fun!

If Sal & his wife are reading this…HELLO!!!  Sal’s wife is having the gastric banding surgery in a week or so. I wish you TONS of luck, and if you need anything please let me know!

Congrats to my blogger-friend SHANE who won his local election yesterday! He’s the newest Justice of the Peace for Crawford County! Congrats Shane, I’m very proud of you! This is going to be a fantastic opportunity for growth as you go through law school. Next step: Oklahoma Attorney General!  I love Shane’s positive outlook on life. He is constantly reminding me that anything is possible. It’s exciting to see his weight-loss transformation go further than just his weight: he’s tackling physical challenges, challenges at the law firm where he works, going to law school…he’s now a public servant, and he does it all while being a fantastic father and husband. Thank you Shane for inspiring me every day!

This morning the alarm went off at 8 a.m. and I really wanted to turn it off and sleep in. But no! I forced myself to wake up, throw some workout clothes on, and go to the gym. The fact that I had to let me car run for 10 minutes to warm up and eliminate the frost didn’t help my motivation.  I wanted to push myself further on the treadmill, further than I’ve ever gone before. To date, the furthest I’ve gone is 4 miles. Today I did six miles total, five of those miles jogging. Despite the fact that my back is hurting like a crazyperson and I may have really wrecked my back good….I felt amazing! I busted my distance-record! I feel fierce, like I can conquor anything! It reminded me of the time I climbed Mount Fuji as a 200+ pound person….real exhileration! (If you haven’t read that story, read it here!)

I am “training” (I use that term loosely, since I really haven’t got the foggiest idea what the hell I’m doing) for a half marathon, which I will run/walk/crawl at the gym, on my own, on December 5th. I’m still looking for participants to push themselves on that day! If you’re game, let me know!!! I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to go from 6 miles run today to 13.1 miles run in a moth’s time, but it’s going to happen one way or the other. Because I want it to. Because I can do anything if I set my mind to it!

When I got back from the gym, I had a mini-victory: the scale flickered at 127.8 (but finally rested on 128). Considering I had a bottle and a half of water inside me at that point, I consider that nearly a one-pound loss! I can’t believe I have only TWO POUNDS TO GO TO MY GOAL WEIGHT!  That knowledge is blowing my mind.  100 pounds lost is so close I can touch it!

I met a friend for lunch today at a new Thai restaurant called Blue Spice. Oh, the food was absolutely delicious! The soup that comes with the meal was a light miso-broth soup with some tofu, clear noodles, garlic and ginger was mind-blowingly good. I wanted to savor every single bite. Light, clear brothy soup like that is very low in calories too, which is an added bonus. For my meal I ordered the salmon in some kind of coconut curry sauce, with a few mushrooms and peas on it. (I did not eat the rice because I already had carbs–with the clear noodles in the soup and peas on the salmon). Holy smokes was this dish delicious! I ate about half of the salmon and absolutely cannot wait to eat the rest for dinner tonight.

I’m having another loose skin “problem.” I think I’ve lost weight slowly enough that my skin has bounced back pretty well from 100 pounds weight loss. I DO have some loose skin on my arms (near my armpit), my legs, boobs, and my abdomen.  This last week I’ve notice another pocket of loose skin: my belly, just above the belly button. The loose skin literally droops and drips, and resembles a shriveled up sundried tomato. It’s quite gross and nasty, but I’m viewing this as a victory: it’s lose skin, but it is NOT FAT.  Overall, I think I’m pretty lucky to have a little loose skin as I do, so I just need to keep this bigger perspective in mind. I would take the loose skin any day over being overweight, with taught skin. This is a consequence of weight loss that I’m wholly willing to accept.  Does that count as a Non-Scale Victory (NSV)?

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