Friday, July 31, 2009

Getting strong!

I had a personal training session last night. As usual, it was hard...not because the moves or weights were totally beyond my capacity (as they were when I started with my trainer 2 months ago), but because I'm getting stronger and Crystal is challenging me more. More weight, more repetitions, more exercises. On a machine where I could barely manage 6 repetitions with 10 lbs of weight, I can now do 12 repetitions with 40 lbs of weight - and do that three times - a total of 36 repetitions. I can actually see muscle definition now, in my legs but even more in my arms. Unfortunately the batwings remain and probably always will, but I can live with that. It would be nice to have arms (and other parts) like the woman in this photo, but she is a bodybuilder who makes a business out of muscles. I just want to be strong, and I'm getting there slowly but surely. The other day I had to pick up one of our puppies (part Rottweiler - weighs about 45 lbs) and didn't have to struggle to do it (other than dealing with his vigorous efforts to escape).

Monday, July 27, 2009

Lean Jean

Like most of us, I've acquired a lot of nicknames in my life, including:

Miss Green Jeans (from the Captain Kangaroo kids' show)

Jeannie Beanie (from the Beanie & Cecil cartoon that was popular when I was a kid)

Jean Jean the Dancing Machine (from Gene Gene the Dancing Machine on the Gong Show)Randy, a guy who works at my health club, knew me when I was obese (we both used to work for the same company), but he didn't recognize me when I first joined the club. Later when he realized who I was, he exclaimed, "You're THAT Jean?!"

For several months now he's been calling me "Mean Jean." He thinks it's funny. It does make me wonder if I have a sour expression on my face every time I walk through the door. Today he said, "It's really Lean Jean now, not Mean Jean, isn't it?"I smiled. "Lean Jean. I like the sound of that."

Though I'm a pretty mean dancing machine, too.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Does a fill hurt?

I've had 15 adjustments in 2 years, and none of them hurt. A few times I went away with a bruise, but so what?

If a fill hurts you, ask for a numbing shot (or spray) the next time. In my experience, the numbing shot hurts worse than the adjustment needle, but again, so what?

And doesn't the pain of a fill compensate for the pain of all your medical problems?

Would you enjoy giving yourself insulin shots 4+ times a day?

What could be worse? How about chemotherapy? How about a broken leg? Or a brain tumor that makes your body disobey the most basic commands?

A band adjustment takes maybe 10 minutes. Your life takes you maybe 87,000 minutes? That works out to .000149 minutes per adjustment. A small price to pay.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

My upper GI

On Tuesday I had an upper GI study done to determine if my band has slipped. Unfortunately, my band's position is not mentioned on the radiologist's report (even though "band slip" was written on the doctor's order as the reason for the test) except for the information that I gave the x-ray tech. So I'm in the middle of a ridiculously difficult battle to get an amended report. Since the radiologist for some reason won't talk to me directly about the findings and my PCP says, "If your band wasn't mentioned on the report, it's safe to assume that it's OK" (huh?!), I went to the hospital and got my own copy of the report plus the x-ray images on a CD.

As frustrated as I am with this situation, it's really cool to have these images. A lot of them don't make sense to me, probably because the shots were taken at many different angles and locations as I turned over and over on the x-ray machine. My port shows up clearly in several shots. I could only find my band in 2 shots, and in one of them, it looks like the band is too far up - sitting on my esophagus instead of my stomach.
The first image posted above shows my port and tubing at the lower lefthand corner. The second image shows my band at the lower righthand side.
Now I'm waiting for an amended radiologist's report that at least describes the position of my band.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Lessons learned from working with a personal trainer

When I first started working with my personal trainer in June, I had been doing aerobic workouts for 14 months with very occasional free weight work. I could barely manage the smallest weights on each Cybex machine. Three-pound free weights were my limit. But Crystal kept pushing me to do more reps, more weight, and I managed to do far more than I ever would do on my own. Even when I was repeating the workout by myself during the week, I would hear Crystal's voice saying, "Three more, two more, one more."

In 6 weeks, I've come a long way. I have gained weight and inches...not my intention! Crystal says that's muscle gain but I know in my heart that it's plain old fat because I've been eating so much more since my unfill. The gain is inches is in my abdomen and hips, where fat so often goes in women my age. But I'm still very pleased with my progress, because I'm beginning to see real muscle definition in my arms and legs, I can handle 3-4 times the weight, and my endurance is better.

At the same time I have learned not to overdo it. There is indeed such a thing as too much exercise. When I overdo it, my body hurts, my energy flags, I feel like crap, and the fun goes out of it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

McDonald's Sausage Biscuit

I had to fast for (routine) blood tests this morning. I knew I would be starving so I made a protein shake (experimental recipe with oatmeal in it - an idea I got from looking at recipes at and stuck it in my tote bag. The instant I walked out of the lab, I grabbed that protein shake and - blech! Even though I had put everything in the blender, the oatmeal was still grainy and the texture of the shake was just disgusting. So this, and my unfilled band, was the perfect excuse to go to McDonald's for breakfast instead of dutifully driving home and fixing myself something healthy. I got a Sausage Biscuit with Cheese, my first in about 2 years. The first bite was divine, the second bite was very good, the third bite was good, the fourth bite was fair...but I kept on eating, because I was DETERMINED to ENJOY myself. Well, the fifth bite was...blech! Suddenly the doughy biscuit and greasy sausage were totally unappealing, and I threw the rest of it away. I used to be able to eat two of those, plus one or two hash brown potato thingies.

It's so interesting to be unfilled now after all that time - although I can basically eat anything in any quantity, my band eating skills are sticking with me, especially the part about paying attention to the experience of eating. If I hadn't been paying attention while eating that McDonald's breakfast, I probably would have plowed throught the whole thing without noticing how sickening it was until it was too late.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Fat lady in a restaurant

I used to travel to Atlanta twice a year to attend the Gift Show. My employer's travel guy negotiated deals with various hotels there and I had a choice of two. After some housekeeping issues with one of the hotels, I switched to the other hotel, in a less convenient location but a lot cleaner. I would eat breakfast in the hotel restaurant every morning. The food and the wait staff were good, but single diners were routinely seated at tiny tables for two lined up along the walls, with a long banquette seat against the wall and regular chairs opposite. These tables were jammed in close - maybe 10" apart from each other. The chairs had arms, making them a tight fit for a fat lady, and I don't like to sit with my back to the dining room anyway, so I would sit on the banquette seat. In order to do that, I would have to move the table enough to allow me to squeeze through.

One morning, the hostess smiled brightly and led me to one of these tiny tables that was sandwiched inbetween tables already occupied by other diners. To get into the seat, I would have had to ask the other diners to get up so I could move their tables (which were loaded with coffee, juice, and other things that could spill). And no way was I going to draw attention to myself that way. So I said to the hostess, "You're going to have to seat me at another table. I'm too big to get into the seat at that one."

"But it's the only one available," she said. The place was busy and all the small tables were full, but there were several tables for four available. I pointed at the nearest four-top, said, "I'll sit there", pulled out a chair, and sat down before she could protest.

"Oh, okay," she said, and set the menu down in front of me.

As I was leaving the restaurant after eating my breakfast, the hostess approached me again and said, "You're not that big, you know." I think she was trying to be nice. I hope so. I was too embarrassed to speak. I just nodded and hurried out.

The next morning, I wanted to hide in my room and eat a room service breakfast, but my employer would not pay for a room service meal unless the hotel restaurant was closed, so I went back to the restaurant. The same hostess seated me at a four-top without having any discussion of where the fat lady could or could not fit.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Good Teacher

When I was in high school, I had an English teacher who gave me writing critiques that I felt were harsh and unfair. This was in a class where we had to read our writing aloud to the rest of the class. Once I said to this teacher, "Why are you so hard on me? I'm the best writer in this class!" (and so modest, too)
She said, "Yes, you are. And that's why I expect more of you. I'm hard on you because I know you can do so much better if you tried harder."
This was both humbling and inspiring to hear.
And this is one of the reasons I'm hard on fellow bandsters. I may be the best writer (we could argue that point). I'm not the best bandster. I don't pick on other bandsters because I think I'm better than they are, but because I think they could do a lot better if they tried harder. Getting an "A" grade for underachievement will not help anybody achieve their goals. In my opinion.
Let me use another analogy. When I was active in Overeaters Anonymous, I picked a sponsor who had several years of "abstinence" from compulsive overeating and who inspired me. She was unlike me in many ways, but I wanted to live my life with her combination of sober sanity and wild enthusiasm. One of the things she required me to do was call her every morning and commit my day's food plan to her. She didn't care what specific food plan I followed, she just wanted me to commit to following it for one day. The next day, I would tell her if I had lived up to that commitment. It was disconcerting to hear her say things like, "How could you have made a better choice in that situation?" But if all she had said was, "Oh, poor Jean, it's so tough to say no to Twinkies when you're so stressed out," she wouldn't have been teaching me anything I needed to learn.

Band unfill progress report

The bad news is: I can eat anything and everything, in any quantity, and the hunger is awful.
The good news is: I can eat anything and everything, in any quantity, and the hunger is awful. Did I really mean that? Yes.
So far, it's kind of nice to be on "bandcation". I can eat an egg on toast for breakfast! What a treat! I think I might even go wild and try a Subway sub.
There's certainly a potential for weight gain here. I cannot get by on the small amounts of food I was eating before this unfill - I'd end up chewing my own arm off. But I'm glad to have this reminder of how much my band was doing for me before that I had come to take for granted. So often I've thought, Why am I so hungry? Why does the band banish hunger for some people but not me? Now I realize that my band WAS reducing my hunger (I'd say by 50%).

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What could cause my band to slip?

After a week of band misery that I thought was caused by a bad pollen allergy attack, I went to see the NP at my new bariatric surgeon's office, who said, "Sounds like a band slip" and took every last drop of fluid out of my band. I have to get an upper GI x-ray and let my stomach rest for 6 weeks before they will consider gradually re-filling me.This wasn't good news, but the unfill instantly relieved my symptoms (I'm maybe 95% better now - and the 5% is probably due to irritation).
Band slips can be caused by vomiting, overeating, failure to follow the post-op recovery diet, poor eating skills, a band that is too tight, or a combination of those things. None of them apply to me. So that happened? I think the culprit is my untreated hiatal hernia. I've had it for years. Dr. Argotte (my original band surgeon) said it was "too small" for him to repair it during my band surgery, and I haven't worried about it since because the weight loss alleviated its symptoms (left upper abdominal pain and an awful feeling of "strangulation" when my innards slid through the hernia). But lately it has been bothering me again, and from the research I've done while writing my book about the adjustable gastric band, untreated hiatal hernias pose a risk of band slippage.
I'll ask my new surgeon, Dr. Weaver, about the hernia when I see her in 6 weeks. Since she's not the one who put my band in there and has never laid eyes on my hernia, she may not be willing to attribute the slip to the hernia. But I'm betting that's what did it. And if that's the case, I want the danged thing fixed so this won't happen again!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What's good about an unfilled band?

Because of the many problems I've been having (probably triggered by pollen allergies and mucus drainage), the NP at my new surgeon's office completely unfilled my band yesterday and ordered an upper GI x-ray to make sure my band hasn't slipped. I have to wait SIX LONG WEEKS before they will start to gradually re-fill me.

Not good news. The unfill instantly relieved my symptoms (reflux, heartburn, coughing, vomiting), but by 10 am today I felt like a raving maniac. Hunger! And I can eating anything! How I will even maintain my weight now, never mind lose weight? It's hard to find something good in this situation, but I did manage to do that.

What's good about an unfilled band? It makes you appreciate everything your band was doing for you before that you took for granted!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Allergies and the Band

I'm still figuring all this out.

For the past few days, my band has been extremely tight. I mentally reviewed all the usual causes: Stress? not really. Pollen allergies? no; in fact, my allergic rhinitis has been better recently. And so on.

This morning when I woke up, my right eye was very irritated, and it got much worse as the day went on despite frequent application of eye drops. I looked at it in the mirror several times, wondering if the corneal cyst I had removed a few years ago had returned, but I couldn't see anything. No cyst, no eyelash, no foreign object. I hadn't worn eye makeup for several days. By 1:30 pm, the irritation was so bad I wanted to pull out my eyeball. It felt as if someone had scored my eye with a razor, then sandpapered it. I called my eye doctor and got a recording. Finally I called my husband's eye doctor and was told to come right over. This doctor (with the unfortunate name of Bugg) carefully checked my eye, found no foreign object, no injury, no infection, but some scarring of my conjunctiva, probably due to allergies. He prescribed Prednisone drops and cold compresses, gave me a bottle of lubricating eye drops and told me to come back if it wasn't better by Monday.

On my way home (3:45 pm by then, after waiting for the prescription to be filled) I was miserable. My eye was so painful I could hardly see to drive and my band was so tight I could barely drink water. Then I passed a blooming tree that my husband and I call Mimosa (we have no idea if it's really Mimosa) that gives us both allergic misery every year, and suddenly it all clicked: the eye irritation, the tight band, the Mimosa pollen. No wonder! Physically I don't feel any better - I still want to pull out my eyeball, and could barely eat 3 bites of tofu for supper - but mentally I don't feel as confounded and defeated.