Mentally preparing for Thanksgiving

by Christine on November 23rd, 2011

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

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I want to take a few moments to mentally prepare for the day insofar as “what and how much food will I eat?”

It shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone that busting your calorie budget on Thanksgiving can be incredibly easy to do. Assuming a typical Thanksgiving feast…

6 oz white and dark meat turkey = 340 calories
1/2 cup of stuffing = 180 calories
1/2 cup mashed potatoes = 150 calories or more
1/2 cup gravy = 150 calories
1/2 cup candied sweet potatoes = 150 calories
2 dinner rolls = 220 calories
Butter for those rolls = 50 calories
1/2 cup green beans = 50 calories
1 glass wine = 120 calories
1 piece pumpkin pie = 200 calories

That’s a whopping 1600 calories for a meal that has “reasonable” portion sizes. Wowza! And that doesn’t even account for 2nd helpings, pre-dinner snacks, football snacks, etc. Talk about easy to break that calorie budget!  That’s two days worth of calories for me!

So in my mind, it’s even more important to pre-plan what I’m going to eat. It’s important to me that I get to eat all the stuff I really love even if it’s not really low-calorie, but I’m okay with passing on the stuff that I don’t absolutely love.

I LOVE: turkey. my cranberry sauce.  mashed potatoes and gravy, carrot cake.
Stuff I can go without: stuffing, green beans, sweet potatoes, dinner rolls, pie.

So if I just cut down on my portion sizes, I can still have all the things that I love!

3 oz turkey: 170 calories
1/4 cup mashed potatoes: 75 calories
1/4 cup gravy:  75 calories
1/4 cup cranberry sauce: 60 calories??
Small slice of carrot cake: 150 calories
Water instead of wine

Total calories for the meal, which includes all the stuff that I LOVE, is 530 calories.  That’s higher than 1 average meal for me, but completely reasonable nonetheless. That’ll be my plan!

Do you guys plan ahead with your dinner to make sure you won’t go over your calorie budget? What do you do with the leftovers? How do you make sure that the leftovers don’t break your budget day-after-day for the next week?

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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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A day in the life…

by Christine on August 10th, 2011

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

Yesterday and this morning I thought I would post some pictures of food and what I’m eating and whatnot.

It all started with a trip to the grocery store. After yoga (yes, I’ve managed to hit every day of my XN 2-Week Exercise Challenge, except for one! 6 days and going strong!) I was pondering what to do about dinner. Now, I live in a godforsaken part of the world that has no Trader Joe’s or Wholefoods. In fact, the nearest Co-op is about 40 minutes away and completely inconvenient to get to. However, there’s a new grocery store in town called the Fresh Market that I think is like a Trader Joe’s. I hadn’t been there before (it’s not really convenient for me…about 10 minutes out of the way) but I decided to hit it up last night.

What a wonderful store! The vegetables look great. Their cheeses went on for miles. Their heat-and-serve foods looked great, and I would have gotten some salmon except the line was too long. Oh, and my favorite part of the store…a long section will make-your-own-trail-mix! They had tons of kinds to choose from! It was terrific!

Have you ever noticed that you rarely see overweight people shopping at organic food stores? Not like you see overweight people shopping at the Walmart Supercenter. I wonder why that is. I mean, the foods that you get at stores like the Fresh Market, Trader Joes, Wholefoods, etc….they might have “Organic” on the box, but they have plenty of crappy foods littering their shelves. You can still get potato chips and boxed/frozen meals…things loaded with salt and preservatives and fat and sugar. Similarly, you can always shop healthfully at other grocery stores like Walmart. There are plenty of fresh veggies, fresh meat, and good natural produce you can buy there. So why the weight discrepancy? And what makes “Fresh Market” a draw over regular grocery chains? Is it the appearance of the products and the store? Or is the food really healthier and more savory? Hmmm. I wonder….

In the end I grabbed some fixings to make a cheese quesadilla and a few snackies for work.

I whipped up a quesadilla. (I ate 3/4 of it.)  It’s always important to measure! I took out the measuring cup to make sure I had exactly the right amount of countable cheese.

I wanted to indulge in a teeny tiny bit of sour cream, but not enough to break my calorie budget. So I took out a measuring spoon and gave myself just a little dab!

Homemade Quesadilla:

2 slices of whole wheat tortilla/low carb: 100 calories
Cheddar Cheese: 23 calories
Sour cream: 40 calories
Salsa: 10 calories
Total: 233; I ate 3/4 of the meal (but all of the sour cream and salsa), giving me 187 calories for the meal.

nom nom nom!

This morning I thought I would try some of this new granola cereal I bought at the store last night. Granola is yummy but it really high in calories (200 per 1 cup) and is high in sugar and carbs. Yikes! I better make this a once-a-week treat. I bet this stuff leaves me feeling hungry mid-morning, too. I would have been better off with an egg! Still, I measured out just a little bit and had my 150 calories worth. 150 calories is my goal for each meal….my lucky number!

Before I left for work I got the measuring spoon back out and measured out a small serving of nuts. You guessed it…about 150 calories worth!  Now the orange stuff is weird. I’ve never seen it before! It’s some kind of dried + pressed peach thing. It tastes like a fruit roll-up. There’s probably a lot of added sugar in the thing, but I can’t seem to find any calorie stats about it online. Still, it is at least kind of natural, and I was wondering if that would help control my mid-afternoon sugar cravings. We’ll see! I forgot to picture a handful of baby carrots as well.

So my total calories for the day yesterday clocked out at:

7:30 a.m.: Cheerios (110 calories) + skim milk (23)
8:30 a.m.: Dunkin donuts coffee (168 calories)
Noon: Out to Chilis with a colleague: 1 bowl of chili with no toppings (310 calories), diet coke
7 p.m.: Quesadilla (187)
8 p.m.: 1 glass of skim milk, on ice (136)
Total calories: 934 calories

Right on target! My goal is between 800-1000 calories. I should have had a lower-calorie lunch so I could have had some snackies in the afternoon, but I had to work with what I had ordered.

This morning I weighed in at 131.0 pounds.  Coming back down, but still up overall. I think the exercise is helping (duh!).

Good morning to you!

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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).

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It’s colder than a…. (plus another fun weekend in Boston!)

by Christine on January 24th, 2011

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

I offer you my apologies, Revolutionists. It’s been a hectic 2 weeks in my life, with the new job, conference, MIT mystery hunt, and last weekend’s subsequent trip to Boston. Life isn’t likely to slow down anytime in the immediate future, but I will try to do better this week about updating my blog and keeping you all appraised of my goings-ons!

First things first: my weight. I rang in at 126.0, slightly higher than my wish-list. It could be post-partying bloat, could be real weight gain, could be period-bloat, I’m not sure. What I do know is that while I’m mostly in my maintenance range, I’m keeping a close eye on that number to see what’s going on with it. For the most part…so far so good.

This last weekend I went with some friends to Boston. A friend-of-a-friend was having a birthday party, and they wanted to celebrate by drinking like fishes, enjoying an expensive hotel, amazingly wonderful food, and dancing. I admit, I party-poopered out on the dancing. Although the exercise sounded like fun, the wall-to-wall crowds did not, so I bailed.

We stayed at the Liberty Hotel in Boston, which is an adaptive re-use of an historic jail. It’s truly a landmark building, and the preservation work on it was extraordinary! The rooms were comfortable, the view from the window was fantastic. However, at $450 a night (our rooms were paid for, a present from our friends) some of the services and attention to detail could have been better.

There’s a restaurant at the hotel called Scampo that is really top-notch! They make fresh mozarella cheese that was really divine, and you know I indulged just a little bit in that!  For dinner I ordered the duck, and it was positively melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness. I’m normally not a fan of sweet potatoes, but my side dish was truly stupendous…I guess I need to stop saying that I don’t like sweet potatoes and instead say, “I only like really, really, REALLY good sweet potatoes.”

For lunch we went to a tiny little restaurant on Charles Street called “Figs.” They are famous for their pizza, which of course I don’t really eat. Instead I had some of the apple salad (delicious) and the tomato and spinach soup. The soup was really tasty, but it’s thickened with polenta or something, and it was a little too chunky/carby/thick at the bottom of the bowl. Tasty though! I was told that their fig pizza was truly a mouth-watering treat!

Yesterday we had breakfast at the hotel (at “Clink,” which was yummy! They had a 20-course bloody mary bar!) and then headed over to the Museum of Fine Arts. Man, that place is really big! It’s well worth the visit, although it was packed yesterday, and maneuvering through crowds really isn’t my ideal way to visit a museum of fine arts. They even had furniture and fashion, which I thought was a wonderful addition to looking at paintings on the wall.

Last night hubby and I watched the Steelers spank the Jets! Wahoo! Now I have to plan a superbowl party with our friends….

Today it was -9 degrees while I was driving into work. That’s really, really freaking cold. My low-gas light came on, but there was no way in hell I was going to pump gas in -9 degree temperature. I’ll run out at lunchtime, and hopefully the weather is in the positive digits at that time.

Tonight we are doing dinner with some friends. I can’t wait! I feel like I haven’t seen them in ages.

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