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Picture this or How Lap-Bands and Storytelling Keep Me Sane

Whilst scrolling through my StalkBook timeline yesterday, I stumbled across an article featured in Oprah Magazine that I thought I should share. The article is a feature written about self-portrait photog Jen Davis who has spent the last 10 years of her life taking perfect pictures of her 269-pound self and has recently undergone lap-band surgery. I so admire her courage and creativity that I wanted to share it with some of my Bandster followers.

The article spells out Davis’s journey from the refuge of life behind the lens to the full disclosure of the physical attributes that she felt kept her there. She did this by turning the camera on herself in an effort to overcome the insecurities she felt were her obstacle to having a healthy romantic relationship. Man, can I relate to that!!

Jen Davis - 2006 Self Portrait

Above: Davis shot this photo of herself in 2006. It’s one in a series of self-portraits taken over the course of a decade.
Read more: http://www.oprah.com/health/Jen-Davis-Self-Portraits-Weight-Loss-and-Photography#ixzz26D2gDTvX

Like Davis, I too found a creative outlet for my insecurities at an early age. As an adolescent I’d wile away the hours writing in black leather bound journals I’d stuff in my drawers filled with tales of a fitter, more desirable me. I wanted to be so much less so I could be so much more. Only I could never share my stories for fear of someone seeing into my soul and realising that the fat popular chick is a wannabe just like the rest of us. Reading this should tell you, I’ve moved from an intense fear of sharing my feelings, to displaying them proudly on my sleeve.

Like Davis, I too have spent my romantic life on the periphery because of my own personal issues with my fatter form. At 33, I’ve only really had two ‘healthy, loving relationships’. I’ve had other (mis)adventures but I often found solace in their lack of commitment and potential for a future. I honestly didn’t think I deserved it and truly believed I didn’t want it. Truthfully, I’m not entirely sure I’m as evolved there as I’d like to be.

Like Davis, I too have a lap-band. Although my rate of success isn’t quite as significant and Davis’, my band has helped me in various ways – including shrinking my stature by a fairly sizeable 45ish pounds. It’s certainly boosted my confidence. I’ve even shared a few sexy snaps of myself recently which I previously wouldn’t, no could’t, have even considered 2 years ago. The romantic side of things may indeed remain a work-in-progress but I’m working through it in my own way, just like Davis.

So, I’m curious to know how lap-band weight loss has affected some of my readers’ romantic relationships. Please leave your comments below.

Gone so long or How Boredom Makes Me Barf

Well, it’s been a very long time since the last time I posted an update on my Slimband journey. I’m afraid this one’s not a good one.

I’ve almost reached the 2 year mark since I had my surgery and I honestly couldn’t regret it more. I’d like to think it does work for some people but what it doesn’t do is anything other than cost me money and sometimes make me barf. I shell out a whopping $389 per month to Slimband and all I’ve lost since the day I started solids is 10lbs. That’s right, 15 lbs in 2 years. How’s that for a disappointment?  But I made a choice. It just happens to have been a bad one. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Some people may be wondering how I went from being a total band evangelist to a cautiously optimistic Slimband story-teller. It’s simple, really. I truly believe (today) that the only reason I lost any weight at all was because I’ve chosen to eat less and I’ve consciously made better food choices. The Slimband nurses would say that’s a good thing. But if I could always make the best food choices I probably wouldn’t need a Slimband in the first place, would I?

I tried though. I tried really hard for a while. Recently, I even went to the trouble of trying to photograph every meal I ate so I could see where I was eating poorly.

But, like I always do, I got bored of the whole thing. I got bored of researching band-friendly recipes, tips on how to get all the nutrients I need and looking forward to next year when I’ll fit into THAT dress again. It’s infuriating, devastating and humiliating. I literally have to consider the impacts of every morsel I put into my mouth. And every time I eat something unhealthy, I’ve made a choice to do so. Sadly, giving a tasty temptation some seriously thought does nothing to stop me from scarfing it down because disappointing myself has never been something I’ve shied away from.

SadI’ve barfed because I didn’t chew properly and I’ve barfed because I ate something I shouldn’t have but  even when I eat a lot of the good stuff like most fruit and vegetables, I barf that up too.  Aside from mixed salad, I can really only eat over-cooked vegetables which can be pretty dismal after a while. On top of that, I’m having some teeth trouble which is make it quite difficult to chew to my food. Thus, further limiting the items on the list of foods that will stop me from getting fatter.

The truth is, it’s never really been entirely about food for me when it comes to losing weight. It’s most certainly the source of consolation, celebration and joy for me but it’s not the only reason I am where I am. I’ve certainly gone through periods of time where I’ve eaten poorly but the fact of the matter is, the key to my weight loss success is physical activity AND diet. My Slimband handles the food consumption but I don’t actually move around a heck of a lot. I’ve always known this. Whenever I decide to be more physically active, I always slim down in a jiffy. Then I get bored of that too and every single sweaty pound I’ve lost goes right back on.

Sadly, I know this post might deter some people from getting a Slimband. I honestly hope it does because a Slimband is not the easy way out that people think it is. Whether it’s working or not, it’s very difficult to live with and you only get out of it what you put into it:

  1. You have to watch what you eat. No matter what. If you think you can’t do it without a Slimband, it’ll be even harder with one because the bad stuff is the easiest to eat.
  2. You have to exercise. If you think you go to food for endorphins now, just wait til you feel the disappointment and frustration that comes when you barf halfway through the nutrient-rich chicken stir-fry you made for dinner.
  3. You have to take multi-vitamins. If you think you don’t get enough nutrients now, wait til you barf up the aforementioned stir-fry (or any other healthy meal with a thicker consistency than the mushies we’re prescribed for 24-48 hrs after a fill) and it happens consistently for days/weeks and you notice your hair is starting to fall out, you’re tired, and your skin is flaking off all around you.

It all happens, it’s all real. I don’t owe a lot of success to my Slimband alone. It’s all down to me and my mental efforts. The Slimband doesn’t solve your weight problems. You have to do it for yourself. And I failed. For nearly two years, I failed.

So, now it’s time for me to create my own fat-loss Kickstart despite the limitations that come with having a Slimband. On Saturday, March 3rd, 2012 I went to Crossfit O-Town for my first WOD.

Watch this space for the rest of the story.

That ain’t classy or How I Survived a Sliming

Well after a fairly uneventful few months, I’ve finally got something to report about my bandster journey. With less than three weeks left until my 1-year anniversary, 5 fills, 8 ccs and 30lbs later, it is with great regret that I report that I am no longer living in a barf-free zone.

That’s right ladies and gentleman, me and my lap-band managed to control my overeating for nearly a year. Although I’m pleased I lasted this long and it does seem to be a pretty clear indication that I may just be at my sweet spot, it does cause me mental (and physical) discomfort to know that what brought me over the edge was some sub-par chicken tikka masala and naan bread. Um hum. India food. And I didn’t even get to digest it before it made me sick!Curry Chicken Masala

So, in the interests of science and in education for fellow bandsters, I’m going to describe what it was like to yack as a result of my lap-band. I feel I must include a disclaimer before I proceed with the gory details though… It’s not for the feint of heart – so be warned!!!

Okay, first things first. I did not overeat. I ate too fast. I ate less than a cup of food. I’ve been able to eat far more than that on average even since my 5th fill a little over two weeks ago, so I’m certain it was a matter of distraction.

It started off with a bit of discomfort. I’ve experienced this before when I’m out and about with friends and I eat without thinking. Sometimes I don’t chew my food well enough and I have to stop eating and have a rest. But the discomfort persisted. I felt a bit of tightness in the chest like the feeling you get when you swallow to avoid choking when someone makes you laugh during dinner. It’s painful but with a normal stomach, the pain will subside when the food moves down toward your esophagus. With a lap-band, not so much.

On the rare occassion I’ve eaten a bit quickly, I tend to stop, take a break and sometimes get up and walk around. I tried that approach and it didn’t work. The food was still stuck. It felt like it was getting worse instead of better…

I then found myself standing in my bathroom taking deep breaths waiting to be sick. The next thing that happened is what I understand to be called ‘sliming’ (not to be confused with slimming!). It’s where your body pushes out the excess saliva you produce to try to push food down your esophagus but it doesn’t go down. Since the food is actually blocking the passage way, you’re esophagus fills with the liquid and overflows. It’s not quite barfing, but you do have to spit it out quickly.

Then came the vomiting. LOOK AWAY NOW if you’re of a weak disposition!!!! What a strange sensation! It didn’t hurt one bit, it was very easy. Just a slight urge which is nothing like what vomiting was like before. The strangest part is what it looked like. I can only liken it to one thing: a lava lamp. It didn’t come up in tiny pieces with liquid. It came out in one weird slimy glop. It almost oozed. I know, I can here your revulsion now. Well, imagine mine!!

Anyway, the important thing is I’m totally fine. I survived and so will you if you find yourself in a similar position. I get a lot of questions about my progress since my updates have slowed significantly and most of them involve this part of the process. Nobody wants to hear that they might be sick if they eat too much. But it’s a fact of life after lap-band surgery. So, do keep that in mind. You CAN avoid it, but you’ve got to chew your food and make good choices. Let’s be honest: the last thing I should be eating is an Indian curry. But next time I do, I’ll definitely chew, chew, chew!!

Fill My Little World

Phew! What an eventful day! Had my 2nd fill with Dr Bishop this morning. Total band contents is now a whopping 5ccs and I can definitely feel it now.

Seriously, I love that guy. He’s super knowledgeable and actually speaks to me like I’m a person. All too often in my past doctors have dismissed my comments and concerns out of hand and oversimplified my situation. But Dr Bishop actually seems to want to help me to achieve my goals. It’s monstrously motivating!

Especially when he gets as enlivened by my losses as I do. Since the last time I saw him (May 26th) I’ve lost nearly 5lbs. This brings my total losses to 18.2lbs in a little over 11 weeks. I’m pretty pleased with my progress since it’s right at the expected rate of 1-2lbs per week.

To top it all off, things are feeling pretty tight in the tummy. I can most certainly feel the restriction in my stomach. I’m on clear liquids/full liquids for the next 24-48hrs (thank goodness Canada Day is 3 day away!). Last time, I could chow down on the day of my fill but this time, I’m terrified to try! It’s tight and I know it.

It makes me a little nervous cause I really don’t want to get too restricted. I’d like to get to the point where it’s tight enough that I’ll get a subtle hint to stop stuffing my face but not enough to make me barf. I mentioned as much to Dr Bishop and he shared my sentiments. He told me about some fantastic research from the very same conference he attended at Harvard Medical School in May.

He said that by keeping my lap-band ever so slightly under restricted and concentrating on stopping when I’m supposed to, I’m actually working at training my brain to react the way it should without actually needing the physical response triggered by the band. This is where I want to be when all of this is said and done – Dr Bishop agrees.

I do so wish I could read these reports but I’m also happy to take his word for it. I quite like that he actually has these tales to tell me. I really hope the Slimband nurse is as informed as Dr B!! We’ll have to see next time…if there is one!

Stay Positive

Well, it’s high time for a turn for the better!! I’ve just weighed myself and much to my delight I’ve found that I’ve lost another 2.6 lbs. That certainly doesn’t sound like much but I’ve been stuck at the same weight for an entire month and boy does every little help!

Yippee! Happy personThings seem to be taking a turn for the better right now. I’m socialising a bit more with friends, I’ve got a few very promising job prospects and now the scales start to shift. It’s about effing time, I’ll tell ya! It just goes to show that mental health most certainly does = physical health. So, I’ve really got to stay positive.

That being said, I’m struggling to eat as frequently as I’m supposed to. Every 2-3 hours just doesn’t seem to fit with my fun and fabulous lifestyle of job applications every morning followed by afternoons of shopping and carrying my aunt’s bags and driving her around in her pretty pink Escalade. We’re running around so much we don’t have time to eat!

But I do get the calories…and nearly none of them are good ones! Shame on me, I know. What’s the point of spending all this money on surgery if I don’t eat well, right? Well, I can’t eat as much as I used to  so it’s still an improvement if only a small one.

And I do get the regular walking in every day. I’m even hoping to start light jogging in my lovely neighbourhood very soon. It’s a dream of mine to someday be one of those fit-tastic people that rises every morning and runs a couple miles. I shall henceforth be attempting to make that dream a reality.

Now, little job fairies, work your magic while I work mine and most certainly our positive vibes will send me the job of my Ottawa dreams.

It’s Oh So Quiet

It’s been a week since I went dark. I guess I haven’t really had anything I felt was worth sharing. I haven’t really been feeling all that much about my band or my weight loss or anything else for that matter… except finding a job. It’s all I can think about!

Never Say Anything Which Doesn't Improve on Silence

I also haven’t been learning all that much about myself of my band either. And since my last two major posts involved bashing my new home town I thought keeping quiet til the shit-storm passes and calm my criticisms because bitching sorta perpetuates bitching, I find.

In the meantime, I’ve been spending a lot of time with The Team and doing my best to stay busy between job apps. Unfortunately, up until yesterday that meant I wasn’t eating all that well since I’m not preparing my own food. (I literally haven’t purchased my own food products in nearly a month).

Not that I really want to eat all that well anyway. I would normally chew my way through the stress but since I’ve got a band it’s not possible to actually binge or I’ll actually barf. But it’s possible to eat small amounts of lots of things I’m not supposed to be eating. So I have been. Which is probably why I haven’t lost any weight in nearly a month. (It’s been two months and one day since my surgery and I’ve lost 15 lbs.)

But I’ve also been slacking on the posts quite a bit so perhaps I’m forgetting the therapeutic nature of this part of the process. Mental health most certainly affects physical health so I guess I better get my ass in gear – here AND at the gym. Fingers crossed I get there this week…hrough the stress but since I’ve got a band it’s not possible to actually binge or I’ll actually barf. But it’s possible to eat small amounts of lots of things I’m not supposed to be eating. So I have been. Which is probably why I haven’t lost any weight in nearly a month. (It’s been two months and one day since my surgery and I’ve lost 15 lbs.)

Risky Business

The past couple of days have been pretty risky food-wise. I had my “Nutrition Kickstart” with Slimband‘s Dietician Arlene on Thursday (more on that in another post) and she gave me a lot of a great advice. But she also kinda showed me the way to temptation. 

Bowl of Stupid

Apparently, I should be almost completely healed now and my stomach should be returning to normal. Since I’m not restricted it should almost feel as if I don’t even have a band.

Now, I wouldn’t say that’s entirely true for me but it’s pretty close. Its super tight in the mornings and sometimes late at night but other than that I most certainly feel like I can almost eat anything I used to eat pre-surgery. I mean, how else could one explain eating steak two nights in a row this week without any trouble?? I did chew, chew, chew but still…

So, armed with the new found knowledge that I COULD try eating some other things, I DID try eating some other things. Like pancakes. Wow, big mistake…

Although I didn’t get sick, I most certainly knew there was food in my pouch for a lot longer than anything else normally is. I felt pressure on my throat for most of the morning.

Then since we were having a family dinner I thought I’d try a small bowl of Gam’s homemade corn chowder. I’d previously read that I shouldn’t really eat corn in the first couple of months because it’s gassy and difficult to digest even for a normal stomach. Well, I went ahead and did it and boy was that stupid! Granted I had A LOT less than I ever would but it just sort of sat there in my stomach. Not a pleasant feeling.

I normally would push my limits a bit but it’s resulted in some weight gain this week. Shocker. Since today is one month since I had my surgery, it’s weigh-in day. I’m down 14.2 lbs since the pre-op diet. That’s a 3.8 lb gain since I started real food on the 6th May. It’s annoying but it’s to be expected. I should be gaining even if I wasn’t trying pancakes and chowder since I haven’t had a fill yet and definitely haven’t reached my ‘sweet spot’.

Arlene gave me some great ideas for how to watch my portion control in preparation for my first fill. So, I shall be following those to the letter until my ‘Fill Seminar’ with Nancy.

Droppin’ It Like It’s Hot

When I started this process I decided I’d weigh myself at the start and end of each phase of the Slimband plan. So far, I’ve weighed myself the day I started the pre-op diet, the day of my surgery, the day after I finished the liquids stage (and started full liquids), and the day after I finished the full liquids stage (and started mushies). To date, I’ve lost 11 lbs.Big cheesy grin on napkin

Well, since today is the day after I finished mushies (and the day I start full food again – WOOO EFFING HOO! I HATE MUSHIES!) I weighed myself and…I’ve lost another 7 lbs!! I honestly can’t believe it. Technically I’m not even supposed to be losing weight right now but I must be doing something right.

That being said, I know it’s not healthy to lose weight that fast (I’ve lost weight before and all…) but I’m pretty sure it’s not going to continue at this rate. The Slimband plan tells us to aim for the healthy rate of 1-2 lbs per week and reminders are rife that any weight lost before reaching our band restriction ‘sweet spot‘ are inconsistent.

That brings my total to 18 lbs lost in a little under a month!! That’s pretty staggering. It’s certainly falling off fast. I started real food today so I suspect some of it will be coming back but I’m pleased as punch for now!

Oh! Oh! It’s Magic!

Hooray for mushies!! Seriously, what a pleasure eating has been today. Started the day with a tasty treat: some instant oatmeal made with skimmed milk.  For lunch/late supper I puréed some of Mom’s chicken stew and although it was pretty good, I’m fairly certain she used chicken stock as the base and right now I’m over chicken stock in a way only my fellow bandsters could understand! It was pretty good though.mushrooms

So, I took it slow while eating both and kept them down with ease. I’m hoping it stays that way. According to my reading materials, physically I should be feeling pretty close to normal by now and that’s a pretty fair assumption.

Food-wise, I’m feeling almost normal. It’s easy to swallow things, the tiny bubble burps have dramatically decreased and the pulling on my esophagus/diaphragm when I yawn (most likely a side effect of the hernia repair) is minimal. I’ve still got the occasional pain in my port site but other than that I’m feeling good.

I also cooked up one of the mushie recipes provided by Slimband’s own creative Chef John. The vegetable soup is a treat. It’s like minted pea soup only A LOT better. Judging by the meal plan I don’t think I’ll get to eat much of it despite the army-sized pot I’ve produced. If I’d known I definitely would have halved the recipe so I stuck some in the freezer.

Went for a wander to Winner’s with my auntie again today and found myself trolling through the handbags, shoes, sunglasses and hats AGAIN. I didn’t even go near the clothing department. Now, this probably makes sense to most people because I’m supposed to be losing weight and any clothes I do buy probably won’t fit me for long, right? Well, that would be true, if I did’t ALWAYS spend my time looking at handbags, shoes, sunglasses and hats.

Anyone who knows me, knows I love me a gorgeous handbag, some fabulous shoes and sexy pair of shades. But I’m fairly certain nobody’s ever wondered why. Well, it might have crossed their minds…but contrary to popular belief, it’s not because I’m secretly a shopaholic bag lady as well as a foodaholic.

I mean, yes, I do spend a lot of money on them. But it’s a whole lot easier to explain than an addiction. It’s simply because shoes and bags will ALWAYS fit. I’ll never try them on, look in the mirror and frown when the fabric hugs my chub a tad too tightly. They’re never smaller than they were the last time I tried them on. And they don’t fall apart the second time I wear them. In fact, when I pick up a classic bag or a timeless pair of shoes, they pretty much go with everything and can last for years.

I don’t mind spending a pretty penny on something I know is going to bring me joy every time I wear it. But that so rarely happens with clothes when one is a larger lady. I seriously can’t wait until the day I have a beautiful bag in one hand and a huge pile of clothes in the other and I can choose the clothes knowing that each and every item in the pile is on-trend, may or may not have been worn by one of my style icons and will only ever fit me perfectly. Oh, what a day it will be!

PS Weighed myself today and I’ve gained 1 lb back on the ‘full liquids’ stage. Total weight lost to date is 11 lbs. I’m told it’s highly likely I will gain most of my losses back before I get my first fill but things seem to be going well so far so we’ll just have to see about that!

Soup-er Happy

Wow, what an improvement today has been! Today is Day 6 and officially the day I move on to ‘full liquids’. Full liquids includes things like strained soups, smoothies and my beloved coffee. In other words, I’m allowed to consume cuisine with flavour.strong old woman

So, in celebration of reaching the next stage in this edible adventure I went to Sobey’s and picked up all the ingredients I needed to make the four smoothie recipes and both of the soups provided in my Slimband aftercare binder plus one more I got from the good people and BBC Good Food.

I spent the afternoon remembering the joy of cooking with my Gam and made each and every recipe. They were absolutely AMAZING!! I honestly had no idea how happy eating (drinking) soup could make me. And the smoothies are a such a treat I can’t believe they’re good for me. I’d like to publish one or two here but I’m pretty sure I’m not allowed.

I also picked up a small tub of Half the Fat Coffee Haagen-Dazs.

I know, I should’t be eating it and it goes against everything I’m doing. But I learned that lesson when I could only eat 3 teaspoons of it before I was full. Now I know better. I’m sure I’ll try pushing the boundaries again but not for a while.

On the health side of things, I didn’t eat much throughout the day nor did I drink nearly enough water. I could only get down about 3/4 cup of two of the soups. I was full very quickly but I definitely felt satisfied. In fact, I still do so that’s a good sign. And as a result of the new additions to my seasonal menu, my traffic jam has also cleared up. Yay!

The only negative health issue was how very weak I was all day. Today was my first day out of the house since my surgery and my muscles have been depleting so I had very little strength whilst walking around. And even less trying to move around the kitchen like normal. I actually had to sit on a chair while doing the prep for most of the recipes. My back, stomach and arms just couldn’t take it standing up. But I managed and I’m glad I did.

It’s a pretty strange feeling to need help to lift what are usually the simplest things. I’ve always been the strong one of all my friends and family but today my grandmother had to load the bags in the car cause I almost fainted. AND she had to bring them in the house and unpack them. Not normal. But I’m sure that will improve with my tasty new additions.

So, my future doesn’t feel so bleak anymore. I’m happy to be back to living a semi-normal existence. Seriously, words can’t describe the relief I’m feeling. If I was a church going girl I’d be thanking the big man upstairs for getting me this far. Since I’m not, I’ll just thank all my loved ones for their support and for hanging in there with me. It’s a big help!

PS: Since I had my surgery I’m down an astounding 6 lbs…this makes a total of 12 lbs in two weeks. Shocking but pleasing.

I’m Off To See The Wizard!

Well, today’s the day. I’m leaving in approximately 10 minutes for the 4.5 hour drive to TO. I’m really a bit overwhelmed with it all and am struggling to feel anything. I’ve got a twirling feeling in the pit of my stomach but I’m not entirely sure if that’s my concern of starvation due to my prohibition from food or drink (not even water) for the entire day. I’m certainly hungry but it’s the no drinking that really concerns me…well, not really. It’s not like I’ve got nothing for my body to live on! No food or drink allowed

The really shocking thing about this whole process so far is I’ve actually lost a whopping 7 lbs on the pre-op diet.

I feel a bit like a contestant on The Biggest Loser. It’s funny because most of the images I found whilst Googling “no food or drink” had images of burgers and fries in them. Not only am I not allowed to have those TODAY, I won’t be able to even consider eating them for about 3 months. Shock, horror!!

I guess what surprises me most about the image is that burgers and fries are such a part of North American culture that a strike through them  both is the clearest way to tell our people not to eat something. It’s like they’re the most recognizable food in our culture. Things that make you go hmm, eh?

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