In my last blog article, I wrote about being happy. I think this Mark Twain quote is one of the most important things I've ever read, because it's incredibly true. And particularly in the weight loss surgery community, it's almost impossible to not compare yourself with someone else. Have I lost as much weight as everyone else in the same amount of time? Why don't I look as thin as her/him. Etc, etc. I know that if you are a weight loss surgery post-op, you know this all too well.
When I started participating in the community, I watched YouTube videos religiously. I looked for women who were around the same build and height as me and tracked their progress so I could get an idea of how things would go for me. I'd watch to see how much they lost, how their skin and hair changed, and much weight they'd lose each week. That's a natural thing that we all do. The surgery brings so many unknown variables, it was a way to see what the possibilities were. But it was also something I became a slave to, all too easily.
As I got further out, I realized that maintaining was difficult. I gained some of the weight back, but then stabilized. Still, I would check in on other post-ops on YouTube and Facebook and beat myself up that I wasn't doing as well as them. I finally got to a point where my body felt good - 165 lbs.
Now at 42, I'm in my third year of perimenopause and on medication. That, combined with some bad eating choices has brought on a 12 lb gain. I knew it was time for me to get myself focused again.
I brought the scale back out.
I bought more veggies and lean proteins.
I started paying attention again.
But the one thing that I absolutely refuse to allow myself to do is compare myself to others. I am unique. My body is unique, it is mine and mine alone. I refuse to allow comparison on my life, and so far, I've done well. I'm down 5 lbs, but that's been a struggle. What I find, though, is that the less I obsess, the less I compare, the less I beat myself up about a gain, the better I do at managing my weight. I am focusing on what's right, what's positive, and what's working IS working. I have seven more lbs to lose, which will likely be easier than the first five now that it's summer and I'm eating less and swimming more.
Don't let comparison be the thief of your joy. Don't compare yourself to anyone else. YOU are unique. YOU are YOU, and no one else.
Right now, my husband is in his office playing "Happy" by Pharrell Williams on his guitar. This is very apropos as he is just a very happy person in general. I know that I'm biased because he's my husband.
I find his ability to be happy about even the smallest things in life very inspiring. I can't decide if that's a gift that's he was given at birth, or if he works diligently on being happy. I think it might be a little of both. By his own admission:
I think most people would say that I'm a happy person as well, but I have to work a lot harder at it than he does. I battle a chronic anxiety problem daily,which my husband cannot understand at all. Most people who don't deal with chronic anxiety don't understand it. This, I get. If you haven't experienced it, you don't understand it. In fact, I deal with it daily and don't fully understand it myself. I just work incredibly hard to manage it. I do tons of reading on the topic, and I regularly have appointments with my primary care doctor, my therapist, and my psychologist. I have no shame in telling you that, because:
I know so many people who struggle with being happy. To them, it just seems like this elusive emotion that they don't get or worse, deserve. When I see or hear my loved ones and friends struggle with this, it breaks my heart because everyone deserves to be happy. The one thing that I've learned in life is that most (not all, but most) of what happens to you is a choice. You can choose to be happy, or not. Sometimes that can be an incredible struggle - to choose happiness despite what might seem like intense odds against you - but you can choose it.
For instance, while I generally don't talk about my first marriage, I learned a great deal from that and I think the things I've learned make my marriage now very strong, and very happy. I really try to apply those learning experiences to life now, while making choices to be happy in the present, now.
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like that's what you wanna do
I always wanted to be a runner. It seems like this really popular club that everyone belongs to now: mini-marathons, full marathons, holiday runs, etc. etc. I see posts all over my Facebook and Twitter pages, and I always long to be part of that club. To wear the cute athletic clothing, buy the running sneakers, get the gear...oh wait a second. I don’t want to run, I just want to shop and wear cute athletic clothing! I knew there was something wrong with that.
As a gastric bypass post-op who has never had any reconstructive surgery, running is not an easy task. Before I even hit the pavement, I would have to strap myself in with several shapewear and compression garments. When you have hanging skin, running is probably the least comfortable activity you could participate in, at least, it was for me.
I’ve loved to dance since I was just a little girl. In middle school and high school, all of my friends belonged to the local dance company and got to dance in these big productions all year long. As a young girl battling her weight and self-esteem, I never allowed myself to participate in any of those activities, even though that I knew as a musician, my sense of rhythm and movement was pretty good. But as a post-op, I didn’t care what anyone thought, and I decided to dance.
When I was morbidly obese at 311 lbs, I went out one night with a friend to a local jazz club in Boston. They always had great music playing live downstairs, and swing dancing upstairs with a live band. We decided to go upstairs one night and just sat and watched - it was AMAZING. People of all shapes and sizes, in period-retro clothing and get-ups dancing to a live swing band. I immediately fell in love and decided to take the dance lessons. It felt like a club that I *could* belong to. It felt musical to me. I loved it.
I went religiously every Saturday night, and now - years and many, many classes later - I can dance a variety of ballroom styles: east coast swing, west coast swing, salsa, samba, rhumba, meringue, bachata, fox trot, and more.
Plus, the people at these clubs and dances are some of the nicest folks I’ve ever met. It’s such a social type of dancing, and everyone is always welcome. Even better, stronger dancers are always happy to jump in and help those just getting started. It’s really the nicest community of folks that I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.
I’ve also tried Zumba and adult modern dance. I love those classes too. Thankfully, being a musician allows me the confidence to know that I won’t make a complete fool of myself rhythmically, and I’ll try almost every form of dancing at least once. Zumba feels a lot like Latin dancing to me: it’s challenging physically, but also very expressive and “adult” in a way. I try to make those classes when I can, but I can also find some great free resources online.
SEE ALSO: The Shape of Things to Come
I decided to have weight loss surgery at almost 36 years old. You may recall that I wrote a post earlier here on the Wellesse blog stating that the one thing I wish I had done differently was to make the decision earlier. Still, life is what it is, and at 42, I now face the challenge of working through perimenopause and my erratic mood swings. (Note: the challenge probably lies more with my husband, who feels the brunt of my emotional antics. He should be knighted. Honestly.) Read more about perimenopause and it’s symptoms here and here.
I found out that I was in perimenopause about two years ago. My husband and I had talked about having children, and since we were both 40+, we knew we would need to see where we stood with fertility. I had the very unfortunate experience of learning that I was in perimenopause and that my chances of having a child were at 1%. I spent most of the first year of perimenopause grieving that fact, and fighting off the initial stages of hot flashes. It was not pleasant, but I got through it.
Now here I am over two years later, knowing that there are many more physical and emotional changes ahead for me in menopause. My body is physically feeling the affects:
Now before I even begin to write what I found, I want to put the disclaimer out there: I am not a doctor (obviously), nor do I have any medical training. This is just information that I have found from trusted resources from my own personal research online. Please always check with your doctors and nutritionists before trying anything new. (End disclaimer)
The following are natural herbs and remedies for perimenopause symptoms, many of which I have already implemented, some of which I still need to try. If you have any experience with any of these, please tell us about it in the comments section. Here is my list, and I wish anyone dealing with the same issues the best of luck!
Having an article about you in SHAPE magazine seems like it should be a really exciting thing, right? And I WAS excited!
I made my husband stop at the store yesterday on our way home from school so that I could jump out and buy the magazine and read the article. It had been so long since I was even interviewed - almost two years - that I barely remembered what is was about. Unfortunately for me, when I opened the magazine, I recalled that it was indeed a "feature," on food addiction.
I kind of rolled my eyes and shook my head, because it's not exactly what I want the world reading about me, but I had agree and there it was in all it's splendor: a small orange strip on the side of the page with my story. Well, parts of my story, told in a voice that wasn't my own. (You can read it here starting on p. 139-140. My feature is on pg. 140 on a small orange strip on the side of the page, with no picture of me.)
I had difficulty reading through it knowing that I would never have called food "my best friend." (Despite what SHAPE Magazine may think, my ACTUAL best friends were a very large group of men and woman of all shapes and sizes.)
But parts of the story are true as well: as a newly post-op gastric bypass patient, I went through the typical mourning of food. I tried to sneak in a bite of food that I knew my body wouldn't handle, and that did NOT go well. Food got stuck in my throat and I made my mother promise to call me in 30 minutes to make sure I hadn't had a heart attack.
Those first few years post-surgery were crazy. Figuring out what you could and couldn't eat, figuring out how to deal with some of the demons that came along with binge eating, secret eating, unhealthy eating. It was a lot to sort through. I think I gave this interview when I was stuck right in the middle of these processes.
But one thing you'll read at the end of the article is true - as well as some very important advice that I'd give to others.
Today, at size years out, my obsession with food is quite different. I tend to obsess about amazing recipes that I see on the cooking channels and how I can make them even healthier. My husband and I are crazy about salads, so I'm always trying to come up with a unique new dressing and salad combination. We work out in our garden, walk our dogs, ballroom dance, and are just overall healthy and happy. (Wait until the pool opens up for summer! Then I become a fish!)
I wish the focus on the SHAPE magazine article hadn't been on food obsession, but rather on the importance of eating well, getting in your vitamins and supplements, and most of all, taking care of your mental well-being.
I am not ashamed to say that I go to therapy regular. I have long-standing, deep-rooted issues well past just food itself. Therapy gives me the tools to work through the in conversation, be in the present moment and having positive discussion with myself when things are tougher. In other words, I feel a lot more prepared to battle my demons with food and the situations that make me want to eat. No shame in my game. My mental health is of utmost importance to me, and six years later after gastric bypass surgery.
So read the article with a grain of salt. It's not really told in my voice, but hey, "any publicity is good publicity." If I gets people asking questions and positive discussions come from it, I'm all for it.
SEE ALSO: Fat Acceptance Vs. Your Value
This week has been a particularly interesting one for discussions between me, friends, and a whole bunch of strangers. I should start with my friend Dagny Kight, author of an amazing book called "Powerful Hunger."
Dagny has a very distinct delivery in her writing as well as her opinions: she's a straight-shooter. She doesn't sugar-coat anything and has done intense amounts of research on many facets of both "why" we get fat and also how our society treats overweight people. If you haven't read her book, I highly recommend you do.
In fact, we just had a conversation the other day about a particular "self-help" giant whose whole message is "when you believe you are lovely and lovely enough to be loved, things will change for you."
The subtext is always "when you finally love yourself, you will lose weight." Dagny's point with this particularly misguided approach was that if you believe this message to be true, you also have to believe the corollary: you must hate yourself if you're fat and you made yourself fat because of your own self-hatred. And of course, neither of us are on board with that particularly screwed up version of reality.
Fast-forward to an article Dagny sent me to read by a very-well known Fat Acceptance Activist, Marianne Kirby called "I'VE ONLY GOT ONE THING TO SAY TO FOLKS WHO DON'T UNDERSTAND FAT ACCEPTANCE." The article was actually written in response to another article written by Carolyn Hall titled "6 Things I Don't Understand About The Fat Acceptance Movement." If you're a perceptive type of lass like I am, you can see that the article titles alone are going to garner some serious and most-likely heated debate. (The comments section on each are OUT. OF. CONTROL. YO!)
So Dagny and I have been tossing around the topics of discussion throughout the week. There was even a bit of somewhat heated debate on my Facebook wall about this. So I may as well tell you where I stand with this:
My friend Dagny is of the thought process that some.bodies.will.just.be.fat. I agree with that.
I am built like my father's side of the family, and weight issues abound there. There's genetics at work and/or it's about issues?
I grew up eating processed foods because that's why my two working parents could afford to feed four hungry children and two dogs. Back then, there wasn't nearly as much nutritional information available, and as we great older, became responsible for our own food choices, we still held onto "comfort" food.
I think from the start, I was always going to be someone who would have to work to manage their weight, no matter what.
After my surgery, many foods and drinks that I had previously loved tasted AWFUL to me. In a way, those early post-op experiences helped me learn to cook and prepare healthier dishes and foods, and now I drinks TONS of water. It's really the only thing I drink at home outside of coffee.
Back to the "fat movement". I feel stuck between two worlds on this.
I do firmly believe that every single person in our society deserves respect, kindness, equality, and the ability to live their lives the way they see fit. But I also know as a former 320 woman how deeply - both physically and mentally - morbid obesity can affect your life and the lives around you.
One of the comments that I read in the article were from a poster who said:
"Because despite your desperate wish to believe otherwise, being fat is NOT a choice.
It is not something we can control. And you think it is, which makes you an idiot."
Here is where I think that both the Fat Acceptance Movement AND our society get it wrong:
I think it's possible to really feel very confidently about yourself as a person (you're intelligent, kind to others, active in the community, and so forth), but also simultaneously dislike that your body is fat and want to do something about it.
Did I hate my body when I was fat? YES, absolutely.
I hated that I couldn't walk a block down the street without being winded and feeling painful heel spurs. I hated that with a passion.
Now granted, did I deal with hateful and snide comments sometimes? Yes, absolutely. But I choose to ignore them and never gave THEM the power to determine my worth.
And now, at 165 lbs, do I think I am any better of a person? No. I'm healthier, which in turn makes me happier, but I'm not a BETTER person for being thinner, and that's a really important point to note.
I think until we stop trying to combine our self-worth with our size, instead of looking at them as two separate but very important issues, we're going to have a hard time winning the battle against obesity. Your weight (no matter what side of the scale) does NOT determine your value. Your body is science. Your self esteem is up to you!
The past few days have been unseasonably cold and windy here in Southern California. Whenever it gets cold out, I'm reminded of being home in New England and immediately want comfort food to fill me up and keep me warm. Some of my former comfort foods included pasta and rice, but I have a difficult time digesting those and they never really leave me feeling satisfied for long. Because of that, I've been reading more about "other" grains that I'm completely clueless about. I thought these might be worth sharing for those of you like me who are looking for healthier alternatives. Some of these are also gluten-free (will be noted as such if it is with an *) as well, which is much gentler on my post-bariatric digestive system: Read also How Do You Get Enough Fiber on a Gluten-free Diet?
Buckwheat (*): a gluten-free fruit seed that you can use in place of pasta. You cook it much like pasta. Cooking example: bring two cups of liquid to a boil, add one cup of buckwheat, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes. You can eat it as a side with hearty veggies, or use it like a pasta with things like chicken and seafood. It contains rutin, which helps to strengthen capillary walls.
Bulgar: this is a really versatile grain because it hardly needs any cooking! Much like rice noodles, you can soak this in bioling water for about 30-45 minutes. Bulgar has a texture similar to meats, so it's great to use in place of things liek beef in meatloaf and chili. Of course, you can always use it in tabbouleh, the delicious middle-eastern salad.
Millet (*): Millet is a gluten-free grain that's high in magnesium, which helps with nerve and muscle function. It's flavor is slightly corn-like and it's super-easy to prepare. It can be toasted in a pain for a nuttier flavor, or just cooked as-it. Cooking example: bring two and a half cups of liquid to a oil, add one cup of millet and cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. It will turn out fluffy like rice, or creamy like porridge if you cook it in more liquid. This is a great subsitute for potato.
Quinoa(*): The mac-daddy of grains in the weight loss surgery post-op world because of it's high protein content. It comes in white, black, and red varities, but they all have a ton of flavor with a hearty texture and taste. This is a great substitute for pasta and rice salads.
Spelt: Similar to wheat, it's slightly sweet and buttery, but not too starchy. When cookied, it's similar to rice with fluffy separated grains. Cooking example: cook like pasta in lot of water for about 45 miinutes. Drain and add things like pesto or dried fruit for different types of salads.
Rye flakes: Very similar to rolled oats in texture. You can serve them like oatmeal, can use it to make granola, or add to any bread or muffin recipe.
You can find most of these right in the grocery store or in specialty stores like Trader Joe's or food markets. Cheers to delicious and healthy comfort food in the future!
Guest post by Diva Taunia, a professional musician and music educator located in the greater Los Angeles area."
Read More on Gluten Free:
I think that I'll always consider myself the "fat girl." Even at 165 lbs and 5'7", I still define myself that way. After a lifetime of others defining me that way, it's hard to shake that definition, that mindset. Six years out, I still have to work every day at treating myself better, and it's not always an easy task.
When I look in the mirror, I see the remnants of a former me: rolls of extra skin around my waistline that will never go away without plastic surgery (which I cannot get covered, nor can I afford out of pocket.) I see the cellulite on my 42 year old thighs, and the loose skin under my arms. Shapewear helps a great with that, and once I'm dressed, I can often forget about those parts of my body that I dislike.
Read Also: The Shape of Things to Come
What Size Do I Wear?
Still, I don't know how to define my body "type" anymore. I wear a size 10 in pants, a size L or XL in a top to cover my poochy midsection. (Note: if that extra skin weren't there, I'd likely be a size medium). In dresses, I can wear a size L if it is stretchy or knit material, but if it's fitted in any way, I wear a size XL or 14. I'm not thin, but I'm also not what's considered to be a true plus size. So where does that leave me?
Where Do I Shop?
It's leaves me smack dab in the middle of two sections of clothing in any store. The good news is that I can shop almost anywhere now and find something that will look cute on me. Still, I find myself always gravitating towards the plus size clothing. I take things from the rack and try it on, knowing that it's too big for me, but also feeling comfort in being covered up by loose, hanging clothes. It's the part of the "former" me that I can't let go of, even six years later.
What Type of Clothes Can I Wear?
There are things that I'll never be able to wear: crop tops, blouses or tops tucked into my pants, short-shorts (although at 42, I probably shouldn't be wearing those anyhow). But there's things that I can wear now that I never could (or would let myself) before: spaghetti strap tops, dresses, high heels, lingerie.
"Average is OK!"
I've worked pretty diligently on being positive about my body, and treating myself well despite the battle scars of a former morbidly-obese me. I love fashion, but I also hate it - because it often reminds me of the shame I felt and still feel with a body that's not "perfect." I'm not obese, but I'm not thin. I guess that means that I am average. And average is ok. Average is good. Average is healthy. Average is me.
Guest post by Diva Taunia, a professional musician and music educator located in the greater Los Angeles area."
Also by Taunia:
I had weight loss surgery six years ago, and I've done incredibly well with it. I've maintained a loss of 150 lbs on my 5'7" frame, became a much healthier eater, have more options for clothes, and many other wonderful things that going along with losing the equivalent of a whole other person. BUT, I've also never had plastic surgery. I've never been covered by insurance either on the east coast in Boston (where I had my surgery) or here on the west coast at Kaiser. When you lose a ton of weight, some of it just "evaporates" but most of it stays there, in a different form, as a constant reminder.
I've been extremely fortunate because I didn't have a lot of extra skin on my legs and arms. Even at 311 lbs, I was pretty active swing and latin dancing, so those parts of my body (that were smaller to begin with) stayed pretty toned throughout the whole process. But my stomach? Not so much. I look like I've had the equivalent of a small children's choir living in my gut. It's ridiculous. And the (innocent, but uninformed) answer from people is usually, "Why don't you try exercise?" "OMG! Exercise? Geesh, I hadn't thought of that!" There are no numbers of crunches of push ups, of sits ups, of cross-training, kickboxing, zumba ANYTHING that will get rid of this gut. For those of you who have had several children, you may be able to relate. The only way this is going away is with some serious plastic surgery, which we have already discovered is not an option for me without insurance coverage.
If one of more person asks me "when I'm due," I may lose it and just start shopping strictly in the maternity department and start lying about when my beautiful, talented, genius of a children will be brought forth unto this world.
Shapewear is daunting if you've never worn it before. There are so many pieces to choose from, each helping with a different problem area, some working with all problem areas. So what I've decided to do is give you the solutions and shapewear that I've found works best for me, with different types of outfits. All are very affordable, but I consider shapewear an investment in my sanity. :) It does take some getting used to - being stuffed into something like a sausage you can't eat anymore, but you'll become used to that too, and a lot of the restriction loosens up after a wash or two. Here are my favorites:
DRESSES: I live in dresses in the summer. Because of this, I need a great shaper that works all-over, so I opt for the bodysuit shaper, which is almost like a bathing suit. My absolute favorite is "Beauty by Bali" Smoothing Lace Shaping Bodysuit. Not only is it an amazing piece of shapewear, but it is sexy as hell. My husband LOVES these and thinks they look like amazing lingerie. You can also find these in most department store lingerie departments. It's the ONLY piece of shape wear I wear with dresses. It provides great midsection coverage and the girls look pretty damn good in it!
TOPS: For tops of any kind, I always use the Self Expressions Cami Shaper from Maidenform. It comes in a range of sizes and colors, and could really be worn all on it's own as a top. What I like about them is the the most shaping coverage is in the midsection (where I need it most) and it doesn't smoosh the girls. Also, another bonus for tall upper torso girls like me is that it has adjustable straps and enough length to cover the pouchy midsection below the belly button. I also really like Slimpressions Tanks A Little because it provides coverage for the mid section, but you can wear your own bra with it. Plus, the material is SUPER comfortable.
BOTTOMS: When it comes to bottoms, I'm fortunate enough that I don't need any coverage around the thigh or knee area. I know lots of folks that do, though, so I thought I'd direct you to a few great companies for that: Slimpressions, Spanx (which I find very expensive and very uncomfortable, but lots of ladies love them), and HERROOM has tons of great selections. You can also do some searches on Ebay, Google Shopping, and Amazon.com for more items to choose from.
PANTIES: I tend to wear lightweight shape wear panties or else I feel like I'm wearing a chastity belt. I just need enough coverage to make sure the pooch doesn't get out of control. I tend to like boy short cuts, and I can find a ton of different options at Bare Necessities. If you sign up for their email you get access to a ton of discounts too, so I would definitely try that route. I also love Slimpressions Full Cut Panty. Really great coverage without sucking every ounce of air out of my body. Seriously, though, they're very comfortable.
SUMMER TIPS: As summer starts to roll around, we all start to freak out about SWIMSUITS. Have no fear! I have some helpful hints for that as well. There is a great company called MiracleSuit that has some seriously rocking styles, but all have really great shaping coverage. There's a reason "Miracle" is in the name. Here's the one I'm coveting for this summer: Tile Style Suit and Sarong.
QUICK TIP: Remember the Bali Bodysuit Shaper I mentioned at the top? You can wear those under nearly any bathing suit to help you feel more shapely and confident. I did that all last summer and it made me extremely comfortable to walk around in my suit.
Another tip? Self-tanner. I don't advocate tanning in the sun - it's bad for you! But self-tanner can darken your skin a few shades and hide some of the extra cellulite and icky parts that we don't love so much.
Hopefully, you found this helpful. Have any questions about where to shop or what types of shape wear to get? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guest post by Diva Taunia, a professional musician and music educator located in the greater Los Angeles area."
More Great Articles by Diva Taunia:
"What can you eat now?" It's one of the first questions that I get asked by people.
At six years out from gastric bypass surgery, my answer is "almost anything." It wasn't always that way, of course. The first few years, I couldn't eat things like ice cream, french fries, and other former staples in my diet. There would be immediate mutiny in my stomach if I even looked at those foods. So out of necessity, I just started eating a lot healthier and it soon became my "normal" way of eating. There are some things that I still cannot eat, but mostly there are things that I choose not to eat.
"Actually, the way lots of foods tasted was dramatically different."
I know many other weight loss surgery patients have said the same thing: many of the foods in our former pre-op lives just taste awful now. (There is actual scientific fact to back this up, such as this great article found here on Bariatric Times.) So I thought I'd create an addiction and subtraction list to get a glimpse into my post-op life eating. Some of these foods are healthy, some are not. Some of these foods I eat because I have to, some are because I want to. Some of them are subtracted from my life for good for medical reasons. In all of these cases, it may be helpful to first get a glimpse at what I used to eat regularly first.
Pre-op: I lived alone in a large house and I taught music out of my home. I barely left home, as a matter of fact. My life consisted of take out food, ice cream, and ice cold glasses of Coke (which was my absolute favorite beverage in the world: several cubes in a nice glass - ahhh, heaven!). My take out meals were almost always either pizza (of which I would eat approx 80% of the entire large pie) or chinese food takeout - enough for at least two large meals, which I would eat as one.)
When I had to go on the liquid diet for two weeks before surgery, I thought I. was. going. to. die. I literally thought I was going insane and that maybe I was making some horrible, horrible mistake. I had 2-3 shakes a day and allowed myself two slices of low calorie toast with butter for the last meal of the evening. I lost 14 lbs in two weeks, enough for the go-ahead for surgery.
I think I can probably skip the portion size and shakes description for the first few months after surgery. Most of you already know that. So, I'll jump straight to me six-years-out addition and subtraction lists with notes:
Soda: any soda. I cannot STAND the taste of it - whether it's diet or regular. It all just tastes like a giant fuzzy glass of sugar and turns my stomach. The only exception to this is ginger ale and I have the diet version ONLY when I have an upset stomach.
Chinese Food: I never touch it any more, and if someone suggests we go to a chinese restaurant, I begrudgingly oblige. The oily taste just completely turns my stomach. (You might be happy to know, though, that pizza still remains a staple in my diet. More below.)
Ice Cream: In my post-op days, I have become lactose intolerant. I can have a couple bites, but that's it. Any more than that and World War III breaks out in my gut.
Rice and Pasta: I can't have it - of any kind. Once it's inside my pouch, it expands and the pain is excruciating. I love both, but I love being NOT in pain even more. Foods that are high in calcium oxalate stones can wreak havoc on a post-op who is susceptible to kidney stones. Other healthy but hurtful foods include spinach, beets, rhubarb, nuts, and wheat. It's the spinach one that kills me. I love me some spinach. *Note: have questions about this? Be sure to check with your surgeon or nutritionist!
Cottage Cheese: I know. Some of you are rolling your eyes right now, but honestly, it's good stuff! Knudsen offers cottage cheese doubles with amazing flavors like pineapple, peach, mango, and strawberry, and they're only 100 calories and completely fill me up in the morning with a cup of coffee. Never in my life did I think cottage cheese would be a favorite of mine, but it is. And speaking of cheese…
Cheese: of all kinds, all varieties, I love, love, love it. One of my absolute favorites is from Trader Joe's and it's called Unexpected Cheddar. It's like cheese sent from the Gods. It's a small square wrapped in cheese paper in the cheese section. Buy it. You will thank me for it later.
Fruit: my new sugar rush. I love, love, love fruit. In particular, I love pineapple, mango, red grapes, and bananas. Any time I start getting a sweet tooth, I grab some good stuff.
Lean Cuisine: I know it's a bit of a cop-out, but when I'm working at the school and need something quick to eat, this does the job. Usually the calorie count is pretty decent, and they have some great flavors like Turkey Dinner, Sesame Chicken (my favorite), steamed Asian dumplings, and even a great BBQ pizza.
Pizza: This has never left my diet, I've only gotten more adventurous with the vegetable portions. I love pretty much any veggie but a mushroom on my pizza. And if it's well hidden, I'll even eat that. I can only handle one piece of pizza on a good day, but believe me, I savor each bite.
Salad: Ok, so no dark greens like spinach, but I can create a pretty kick-ass salad with butter lettuce, romaine, or even regular iceberg.I think every salad should have veggies, cheese, egg, and some kind of small chopped meat. And I usually add some tortilla strips for crunch. And salad dressing? I either make my own (lite vinaigrette) OR, I usually use a regular honey mustard as a dressing. Trader Joe's make the BEST sweet and spicy honey mustard in the world. Go buy it in vats. You'll thank me later.
Vitamins and Supplements: It goes without saying that I'm a huge fan of Wellesse Liquid Supplements. As someone who is Vitamin D deficient and also anemic, going without vitamins in my diet is NOT an options. Check with your surgeon and dietician and make sure that you are including your vitamins as part of your new post-op world diet.
So that's about it. I eat pretty normally now with a few exceptions. I am by no means a nutritionist or dietician, I just go by the info they've given me and the research I've done. Hope this helps you know what to expect. At six years out I'm living and eating great!
Ah yes, the old "will I still be able to eat pizza???" It's the most often-asked question, and I totally get it.
Photo & recipe - www.budgetbytes.com
This coping mechanism that you've been using for years - if not decades - is suddenly and quite dramatically being taken away from you. Again, this is from my own personal experience - others may have had different experiences, so always do your research!
My first two years post-surgery were tough eating-wise. I was simultaneously battling a life-threatening kidney problem, so I was barely hungry, ever. I drank a ton of shakes (some that I still really love and can suggest below**). But at about a year out, I was able to have three of the most delicious bites of pizza I have ever tasted. A lot of the things that I used to love tasted AWFUL to me now - like Coke, Chinese food, any sweet type of drink, bleck! But pizza? To this day it remains a favorite (although it's harder to find good NY style pizza out here in SoCal!). And I can eat exactly one slice with a small glass of wine. That's it, but it makes me feel full and satisfied. It's a usual Friday night staple for my husband and I: veggie pizza, wine, and a Redbox movie.
I'm kind of perplexed by the questions about what diets I am on. I don't diet, and I never will. For me, I rely solely on how I feel. If my pants start feeling a snug around the waist, I change what I'm eating. If I feel sluggish, I know I am not eating enough nutritious foods and probably eating things that are fast, but lack in nutritional value. What I consider myself now is a "normal" person. I still love food. I love, love, love to cook. But I absolutely refuse to be a slave to food, my weight , or the scale anymore. It makes me crazy (crazier than before, lol).
When my husband and I moved in together, he refused to let me have a scale in the house. And this week after visiting my doctor and seeing a 3 lb gain, he wouldn't even listen to me talk about it. "3 pounds? Are you nuts? You look exactly the same to me. We're not talking about it." That was the first time I gained in about a year and it also coincided with my time of the month (oh yeah, don't think you get out of that when you get into perimenopause - oh joy!). I backed away and looked at it rationally.
What I try to do now is just try to make reasonably healthy choices, move more, and enjoy this new life that I've been given. That's the "diet" I am on now. Maybe I'll go order a veggie pizza for dinner. :)
Guest post by Diva Taunia, a professional musician and music educator located in the greater Los Angeles area. More information can be found at www.divataunia.com. Read also by Taunia : The "Unsolicited Advice" Syndrome - Thanks but NO Thanks!
**Some of my favorite and tasty shakes:
• Smoothies with my with Wellesse Liquid Supplements
• Lean Dessert Chocolate Fudge Pudding
• Big Train's Blended Ice Coffees
Guest Post by Diva Taunia, a professional musician and music educator located in the greater Los Angeles area. More information can be found at www.divataunia.com.
At my highest weight, I was 311 lbs (at 5'7"). Six years later, I'm maintaining my weight at a very comfortable 165 lbs. Weight loss surgery was one of the best decisions of my life. I happily share my story with anyone interested, and always try to answer emails and questions from folks when I can. I try to still maintain my YouTube channel and give updates about my post-op life and (much of that will now be chronicled here on this blog as well) and all of my pre-surgery videos until now are available for anyone looking to research life after weight loss surgery.
I thought that for my first blog here, I'd answer the most common question I get, which is "would you do it all over again if you had the choice?" The answer is a resounding YES. However, there are definitely things that I would change now that I have the hindsight of six years experience.
Truth be told, I didn't even know about Wellesse Liquid Supplements until I was well-into the stage where I could take actual pills again. But as much as I tried in those first few years, I had lots of problems getting my vitamins because only a handful of them were offered in a chewable form - the rest were caplets and pills. I know that I wasn't good at taking my vitamins, despite my liking the companies I used and the flavors that were offered. It was just too difficult. If I had known a great-tasting liquid option was available, it would have been a huge boost in my nutrition and health, because I would have been much more dedicated to taking them. And the thing is, even now - at six years out where I can take any form of medication/vitamins/supplements I can - I still use Wellesse because it's the easiest, fastest, and tastiest way to get in my vitamins. Granted, that's a full-on promo plug for Wellesse for sure, but it also happens to be the truth.
The other thing that I would have changed is when I had the surgery. I was 35 when I started researching it, and 36 when I had surgery. It took another two years for me to get to my settled weight, and another two years after that to figure out how to get myself and my body nutritionally sound as I started to get older. The only thing I regret is that I would have made that decision sooner, so that I could have been living my life the way I am now at (almost) 42. My life was affected by my weight in such dramatic ways - some that I didn't even know about until I had lost the weight and saw how different things were.
And finally, there was one very monumental thing that was affected by the date/time/age that I decided to have the surgery. My next blog will go into detail about that. (Teaser, I know…but it's an important topic - especially for women, so I hope you'll bookmark this blog and come back to read it.)
Despite those things, weight loss surgery remains one of the best and most positive decisions I ever made for my life and my health. Yes, I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat.
1. Eat only one small treat a day.
Often times, especially at work, we have access to candies, cookies, and other treats. They are brought into the office by coworkers, clients, vendors, or business partners. Sometimes these treats find their way into your home. Telling yourself for 8 to 12 hours a day that you can't have it may lead to feelings of deprivation. Then if you decide to indulge, it's more likely you will overeat and then there feeling of guilt afterwards. Allow yourself one small piece of candy, one small cookie, or one other small treat per day. Be choosey because once you've eaten it, you're done for the day. If you choose to eat a cookie at your morning break, know that the next treat comes tomorrow.
2. Eat only three small appetizers at a party.
These foods may be small but they pack a lot of calories. Check out these bites: 1 mini-quiche = about 90 calories each, 1 cream cheese stuffed jalapeno pepper= about 75 calories, 2 small smoked sausages in barbeque sauce = about 85 calories, 1 bacon wrapped scallop = about 80 calories and 2 tablespoons spinach dip = about 90 calories (without crackers). If you ate the above appetizers you would have consumed about 330 calories, 21 grams of fat (58% of the total calories) and 930 mg sodium. Again, be choosey and select the three most appealing to you. This probably won't fill you up, but this type of event is not a meal. Fill up on the lower calorie items available.
3. Include fruits and/or veggies at all meals and snacks.
Foods that are high in fiber and water content will help fill you up and keep you feeling satiated more than dry foods since they stay in the pouch or stomach longer.
4. Use a meal replacement shake for the meal before and after a holiday meal or party.
Since you may be eating more calories at this meal than normal, you will need to balance out your intake. Using a portion-controlled meal replacement is an effective way to make that balance happen. In our study we found that the shake produced better results than using a packaged portion controlled food, such as a frozen dinner. So if your event is in the evening, have a shake for lunch and then again for breakfast the next day.
You've been faithful with your diet and exercise program but the scale is stuck. It can be frustrating to work hard and not see positive results. It may be tempting to throw your hands in the air and say, "What's the use of continuing with this? I'm doing everything right, and the scale isn't moving."
Hitting a weight loss plateau is normal, even with bariatric surgery. Your body is not programmed to lose a certain amount of weight every week. There are numerous factors that affect your rate of weight loss.
A person with a higher BMI will generally lose more weight in the first few months than a person with a lower BMI. I have also seen people who lose a significant amount of weight before surgery, have a slower weight loss after surgery, and hit a plateau sooner than someone who has minimal weight loss preoperatively.
As you lose weight, the amount of calories you need to run your body decreases since you have less pounds to support. So if you were eating 1500 calories a day and losing weight, eventually that 1500 calories will need to be reduced to continue with weight loss. If the scale has been stuck for a couple of weeks, either you need to cut calories from your intake or increase your activity and burn more calories.
Relax. Weight loss is a process and it takes time. If your head is on straight, the numbers will follow.
Vicki Bovee, MS, RDN, LD, Wellesse Bariatric Expert
Breakfast..To eat or not to eat?
For years we've been told that breakfast is an important meal. It recharges your brain and your body and makes you more productive. Numerous studies have found that people who eat breakfast do a better job of managing their weight and they tend to have less cravings for carbs later in the day.
You may have heard or read in recent news that a study published in August in the Journal of Obesity that a group of 1,600 overweight, middle-aged and diabetic women were asked to distribute their 1,400 calories in different proportions during the day. The group that ate half their calories at breakfast lost more weight than those that ate most of their calories at dinner. The problem with this that I see, is how many of us can eat 700 calories at breakfast without loading up on high fat foods?
Other studies have found that people who skipped breakfast really didn't eat more calories later in the day as we would expect. Theoretically, you save calories during the day by skipping any meal. But should you?
If you've had any type of weight loss surgery the recommendations are clear to eat 3 small meals a day. We know that obese people are more likely to be breakfast skippers than normal weight people so eating breakfast is one of those lifestyle changes for long-term success. Generally, breakfast is eaten within 60 to 90 minutes after getting up. For some people with an adjustable gastric band, breakfast may be difficult due to band tightness in the morning.
Post-operatively, the question is not whether to eat or skip breakfast, but what to eat for breakfast. The best breakfasts are low in carbs and fat and high in protein and fiber. Skip the sugary breakfast cereals, pastries, baked goods and coffee drinks. For my patients who are not breakfast eaters, I recommend a shake made with a high quality meal replacement, protein supplement, or make your shake with cow's or soy milk and yogurt. Other good choices for breakfast are Greek yogurt with some fresh fruit, egg white omelet and whole grain toast, or oatmeal made with milk and sprinkled with some nuts. No one says you have to eat breakfast foods for breakfast. You can make a wrap with a whole wheat tortilla and some deli meat or have last night's leftovers.
Check bariatric food blogs for other great ideas such as www.worldaccordingtoeggface.blogspot.com
Breakfast is an important meal for you. Your pouch has limited capacity and you don't want to risk overfilling it at lunch because you let yourself get too hungry. This meal also helps keeps your blood sugars more stable and you'll have a better more energetic morning. Breakfast is also a great time to take your supplements for the day. If you take a liquid supplement, you can easily add it to your protein shake or smoothie.
Vicki Bovee, MS, RDN, LD, Wellesse Bariatric Expert
"Every patient has the intention of being successful long-term."
I have been specializing in bariatric nutrition for 10 years and have seen thousands of patients proceed with gastric bypass, gastric sleeve, or gastric banding surgery for weight loss. I believe every single pre-operative patient who has sat in my office or my preop nutrition class, has every intention of being successful long-term. I don't recall ever hearing someone say, "I'm going to have surgery and regain my weight." Yet, some do. Not everyone is successful in keeping off significant weight for the long haul.
Setting yourself up for success starts long before your surgeon meets you in the operating room. The decision to have weight loss surgery is not to be entered into lightly, but requires a great deal of soul-searching and homework on your part. Whether you are investigating the very idea of weight loss surgery or investigating your surgical options, please allow me to offer some experienced guidance.
· Do you meet the BMI criteria for surgery? You must have a BMI >40 or be more than 100 pounds overweight without comorbidities or a BMI >35 with comorbidities. Typically, the insurance companies are looking for comorbidities of diabetes, hypertension, and/or sleep apnea. If you are pursuing an adjustable band, check with your surgeon if your BMI is >30 with comorbidities.
· Have you made numerous attempts, beyond over-the-counter weight loss drugs, to lose weight? Have all these attempts failed and you've regained the weight?
· Does your insurance coverage provide bariatric benefits? This alone can stop you from proceeding further. Some insurances cover only certain procedures, have limited coverage for surgery, and/or have lifetime limitations on benefits. You may be able to have surgery, but they will not cover follow-up visits. If you are a self-pay, are you able to pay the costs of unforeseen complications?
· This is a life-changing surgery. Are you ready to make changes in your life that affect every aspect of it besides the number on the scale and your health problems? This surgery changes relationships with spouses, significant others, partners, family, friends, and co-workers.
· Are you committed to change your eating and exercise habits for the rest of your life? This is not the easy way out. I have never had a post op patient, successful or not, tell me that this was the easy way out. Weight loss surgery is a tool, and it's a wonderful tool when you work with it, but you have to be 100% committed.
· If you are having second thoughts or reservations about proceeding, it's OK to stop the process. You need to be ready. I've had patients stop and some return in a year or so. Some never return and I think that is a wise decision on their part. If you are not ready or proceeding for the wrong reasons (someone else is pushing you), success is not in your favor.
If you are certain this is for you and you are committed to make the lifestyle changes, how do you decide which procedure is best suited to you? This is a decision you will make with your surgeon, and here are some things to think about.
· What are your current health problems or comorbidities? Your surgeon will look at your medical history, and based on his/her experience, will direct you to the best procedure.
· What medications are you currently taking? Both gastric bypass and gastric sleeve and medication implications. Again, consult with your surgeon.
· What procedures does your surgeon routinely perform? Ask them how many of each of the procedures they have performed and their complication rates for each.
· Are you willing to take vitamin/mineral supplementation daily for a lifetime? There is malabsorption with gastric bypass and gastric sleeve surgery. You will need to take supplements daily to prevent vitamin or mineral deficiencies. You may get rid of medications, but you trade them for supplements.
I sometimes hear someone say to a preop patient, "Good luck with your surgery." I don't believe success is a matter of luck. It is based on the skill of your surgeon and, most important, your commitment to making those lifestyle changes, not just for a few months but for a lifetime.
Vicki Bovee, MS, RDN, LD, Wellesse Bariatric Expert
Over the years, the tools we use for anthropometric assessments for weight management have improved tremendously. These tools provide us with much more accurate information than using predictive equations or estimations.
The term anthropometric refers to comparative measurements of the body. Anthropometric measurements are used in nutritional assessments. Anthropometric measurements used for adults usually include height, weight, body mass index (BMI), waist-to-hip ratio, and percentage of body fat. These measures are then compared to reference standards to assess weight status and the risk for various diseases. Anthropometric measurements require precise measuring techniques to be valid.
I have been using an indirect calorimeter for about 10 years to measure resting energy expenditure (REE), or resting metabolism. The device measures CO2 production and O2 consumption and converts that measurement into calories. As I explain to my patients, it is the amount of calories your body burns in a day just to run your body at rest. Or as one of my patients said, "The calories just to be."
At the baseline REE, I often have patients tell me they believe a large part of their weight problem is due to a slow metabolism, and for some, this is the case. For those people with extremely low metabolic rates, I refer them to their PCP for thyroid testing. But for most, I discuss the factors that influence metabolic rate and how they can improve it.
Factors that affect metabolic rate and are out of your control.
· Age. Your metabolic rate declines as you age due to the natural loss of muscle mass that comes with aging.
· Gender. Women have lower metabolic rates than men because women genetically carry more fat than men. Men have more muscle mass and therefore burn more calories. So ladies, do not compete with men when it comes to weight loss.
Things you can do to help maintain or increase your metabolic rate.
· Hands down, the best thing you can do is exercise. Cardio activity will raise your metabolic rate while you are exercising and for several hours after. But, it is the muscle building, or strengthening activities, that will keep your rate higher for 24 hours. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so more muscle mass means a higher metabolic rate. The muscle building activities help prevent the natural loss from aging. In addition, when you lose weight, especially rapid weight loss that comes from weight loss surgery, you don't lose just fat. Part of that weight loss includes muscle mass. Faithfully doing strength training can help preserve lean body mass during weight loss.
· Get enough sleep. If you consistently burn the candle on both ends, it will slow down your metabolism.
· Eat often enough. This is not grazing! This is eating every 2 to 3 hours. At eating times, choose healthy foods that include protein since protein requires your body to burn more calories to utilize than carbs or fat. Avoid eating one, large meal a day as this can slow down your metabolic rate.
There are some foods that may help you increase your metabolism. There is a compound in green tea, ECGC, and a compound in peppers, capsaisin, that can produce rather small increase but at this time the research shows they do not significantly affect weight loss. Caffeine does increase metabolism, but again, there is not enough research to support its benefits for weight loss.
At repeat REE measurements I have seen patients significantly increase their metabolic rate with large weight losses after bariatric surgery. How do they do it? EXERCISE! The best way to maintain or increase your metabolism is through exercise, both cardio and strength training.