by Christine on March 29th, 2013
filed under Christine's Life Updates
This week I had an opportunity to chat with a perfect stranger about my weight loss and issues related to it. The conversation kind of came up in a roundabout way, the way these things do these days. Usually they talk about their own attempt to lose weight, and I chime in with my own experiences, and they say, “Wow, you’ve lost over 100 pounds?” And then I pull out my phone and show them a “before” picture. Two things happen then: They either say, “Holy shit, you don’t even look like the same person!” or they say, “Awe, you look as good now as you did then.” It’s funny how reactions can be lumped into one of the two categories.
This particular gentleman that I was speaking to, Bob, was sharing that he coaches women’s sports at his local high school. He volunteers his time coaching softball, soccer, and basketball. He said there is one young girl that plays multiple sports (it’s a small school district), and he has noticed recently that he treats her differently because of her weight. Bob gives her less playing time than the other girls. He puts her in positions that require less effort (for example, outfield instead of shortstop, etc). He forgets to even think about her when he’s coming up with drills and plans. Bob is less friendly to her in person. He said she’s a very smart girl, very sweet, with a heart of gold. And she tries very hard at all the sports. So it’s really just her weight that causes him to treat her differently. Bob wanted to know how people have treated me differently now versus when I was overweight.
I had YET ANOTHER conversation along this same line with a very dear friend of mine, who we shall call John. John is, shall we say, an adventuresome lover. He has many lovers. He finds women attractive and enjoys sex with them. But there is one woman that has made it clear that she is attracted to him, and he said he is not attracted to her…..yes, because of her weight. John feels terrible about this and feels very self-conscious about his lack of attraction for this woman. He feels like a terrible person and wants badly to be more open-minded. And yet, his attraction…it is what it is.
I’ve been on the receiving end of this more times than I can count. The one that stands out to me is a crush I had on my friend Terry. We spent TONS of time together, even slept (yes, sleep…not sex) together all the time. We had many fun adventures together. I made it clear that I liked him, and one day he was finally honest with me and said, “Look, you are a nice girl, I’m glad we are friends and spend time together. But I’m just not attracted to you. I like girls that are a LOT thinner than you.”
I was crushed. Terribly crushed. It made me hate and loathe myself even more than I did before. But at the same time, I appreciated the HONEST response. “I’m not attracted to you because of your weight” was a whole hell of a lot more honest than, “I just don’t think we’re meant to be together” or some other bullshit like that.
I shared some of my experiences with Bob, and he was very attentive. He said he feels like a terrible person because of how he treats this girl on his sports team. He said he will not forget our conversation anytime soon, that my openness and candor meant a lot to him. He said that our conversation only reinforces that he needs to do a lot better job being a better person. It was one of the nicest compliments I’ve had in a long time.
But Bob asked me, “Are you ever bitter? You know…bitter when people are nice to you now? Bitter because people weren’t nice to you before?”
Hmmm. Now that is a complicated question.
Yes: I mean, of course I’m bitter that I spent some 30 years of my life trapped in a body that I did not want. A body I did everything within my power to change. I’m bitter that, for as much as I hated myself (oh, and I did!) the way people treated me only made me hate myself that much more. I’m bitter for all the opportunities that were lost to me: opportunities to make friends, opportunities to date, even work opportunities. I’m bitter that people judge so much based on appearances and not based on the content of your heart and soul.
And no. I’m grateful for the fact that people are nice to me today, regardless of WHY they are being nice to me. I’m grateful for the smiles I get at the corner store. I’m grateful for the little flirts and smiles I get from guys. I’m grateful that I have the chance TODAY to meet new people, make new friends, have new opportunities. I’m grateful TODAY that my life is so much better.
Throughout all these conversations, it just reinforces to me over and over how TERRIFIED I am that I’ll someday gain my weight back. I’ve felt the change in how people treat me. I’ve felt the change in how I treat myself. Even these conversations this week just demonstrate to me that people DO treat overweight people differently. I don’t want to go back. Oh, I’m so scared to go back.
There’s one positive to all this: my husband married me when I was at my fattest. I’m SO GRATEFUL for that. Because I know that he loves me for ME, not for how I look. And I have hope that if I ever gained weight back, he would still love and respect me. That means the world to me! I am very grateful to have him in my life.
by Christine on June 5th, 2012
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!
by Christine on April 9th, 2012
It turns out that getting a belly button ring affects the gastric band. I wouldn’t have guessed that, so it has been a bit of a learning experience for me.
Here are some pictures. Please note that I think my belly button ring is infected. It’s a little red, and it hurts pretty solidly when I bend over and whatnot. I believe this is affecting my band even more than normal.
The main difference is that my band is HELLA TIGHT since getting pierced. This is because the band is absorptive, and I’m most likely retaining water due to a small infection in the band. (Read more about the band being absorptive here.) I can barely keep any food down…been barfing up nearly every meal I try to eat. Fortunately I can still sip liquids, so I’m holding out on getting an un-fill to see if this will pass.
The second way the piercing affects the band is because the piercing is located very close to my gastric banding port! I’m fortunate that my piercer didn’t actually puncture the port hose or anything like that (note to you: if you’re going to get a piercing, you may want to mention the port and hose to your piercer so you don’t get punctured!) but I realize now that it could have happened pretty easily. The hose comes very close to my belly button, and so when I bend over or move in a certain way, I can feel the hose rub against the piercing. No bueno, and I may have to lose the piercing because of it. I need to talk to my doctor about it.
Of course, none of this means that YOU will be so affected by your belly button ring, but you may want to give it another thought before rewarding yourself for your weight loss, like me!
Here are some pictures. I know, my belly is hideous, especially with those stretch marks. I don’t intend on SHOWING OFF the belly button ring–I got it more for myself, so I know it’s there, as a reward for losing 100 pounds. That being said, you can see a few things from this picture (ignore the stretch marks, please!):
- You can see my stomach area since my port re-attachment surgery. You can see a little bump off to the side of my tummy where the port is, but it’s not TOO noticeable.
- Surgery scars: you can see two or three of my surgery scars on my tummy. These don’t bother me at all, but they are there.
In other news, I’m finally getting some exercise again, now that the weather is turning warmer. This weekend I went hiking in the Berkshires. It’s a path that I’ve done before, and I previously deemed the trail to be “easy” but this time I declared it to be “moderate.” In fact, the hike kicked my ass and I was sore for a day afterwards! OY! Must exercise more!!
by Christine on September 16th, 2011
filed under Gastric Banding Surgery
As I was reading up on the whole process behind appetite, hunger levels, and appetite suppression, I kept coming across information about a hormone called Ghrelin. This is my own take on the information that I’m reading.
Ghrelin is a hormone produced by cells in the stomach and pancreas that stimulates hunger. Before you eat a meal, ghrelin levels rize, consequently signaling to your brain “Hey man! I’m hungry!” To turn off the ghrelin, people typically eat food; if you eat enough food, ghrelin decreases and you’re less hungry.
Ghrelin is regulated by the hypothalamus, which we have no mental control over. No amount of “willpower” can change how the hypothalamus works. However, the gastric band can actually work to control your hypothalamus! When normal people eat, the foo consumed stretches the upper stomach as it works its way en route to the lower stomach. When this streching happens, the hypothalamus sends out a hormone (pro-opiomelanocortin), which suppresses ghrelin. If you don’t eat, the upper stomach isn’t stretched, so you’re hungry.
With gastric band patients, when you eat, your food remains in the upper stomach for a longer than normal period, keeping the upper stomach stretched out. Consequently gastric band patients feel full after just a few bites of food. Smart patients will quit eating soon after that, or at least moderate the amount of food that they eat. (It is very easy to get used to the “full” feeling and start to ignore it.)
This is one reason why your doctor tells you not to drink when you’re eating food. Liquids will help wash that food out of your upper stomach, into your lower stomach, thereby reducing the amount of “stretch time” you’re getting. Consequently you’re more apt to feel hungry sooner after your meal. I would think that foods that are more fiberous, that stay in the upper stomach (take a little more time to break down), may also help you feel fuller for longer.
Interestingly, there have been a lot of studies that show that mere surgery alone can have an effect on ghrelin levels. Gastric bypass patients have been known to show an actual drop in ghrelin levels following surgery, where as gastric banding patients experience a drop in hunger but not in actual ghrelin. With sleeve gastrectomy, the area of the stomach that produces ghrelin is removed.
Researchers apparently are working on some miracle anti-obesity vaccine right now that would prevent ghrelin from reaching the central nervous system, thereby helping to suppress the appetite and preventing weight gain. Preliminary studies are being done on rodents and pigs.
by Christine on September 15th, 2011
filed under Gastric Banding Surgery
My blog reader Kris was able to link me to an article explaining why our gastric bands feel tighter when we are stressed (or PMSing). How very interesting! The article can be found here. The answer is that the gastric band is a semi-permeable membrane that actually can absorb fluids in the body!
Often times patients will come in because their Lap-band feels too tight. They find more difficulty with some foods, and are uncomfortable. They ask me “does stress cause the band to tighten?” The answer is, yes, it does.
The biology of stress is this: when you have stress, be it physical stress (like an illness) or mental stress (like your mother-in-law coming by for a short two week visit)…the body reacts by retaining fluid. You may notice that wedding rings are tighter, and there is more swelling in the legs at night.
The balloon of the adjustable Lap-band is a semi-permeable membrane, meaning it is osmotically active. In plain English: the more water you retain, some is transmitted to the band, so it swells.
If a patient has 5.5 cc in their band (we measure it) and they come in and it feels tighter, we find they have 6 cc in the band. Where did the ½ cc come from? That is from the extra water the body is carrying. Since the balloon on the band is semi-permeable it will retain more water also.
This is the same reason that most people find the Lap-band to be tighter in the morning. In the evening you may notice you have some swelling of your ankles – by gravity your body water has gone down to the legs. In the morning that swelling is gone, and the water has gone back to the central compartment of the body where the band is. If we measure the band in the morning it can have 0.25 to 0.5 cc more in it (which can make a difference).
This is also why we don’t like bands being too tight. People need room for stress – of all kinds. Leaving room in the band to allow for this, means that patients will have fewer difficulties.
Upon further web searching, I see that there are several scientific studies that have been performed that have verified this claim, such as this one here.
This knowledge makes me realize two things: (1) When your band is too tight or too loose, don’t go running to your doctor to get it fixed right away. Give it a little time to see if the saline levels balance themselves back out. Also, (2) If you experience a “looser” band, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your band is leaking or is broken. First try increasing your fluid consumption and see if that fixes the problem. If there is a noticeable decrease in “restrictive feeling,” then go see your doctor.