Sunday, October 31, 2010

Not so happy Halloween

My friend Majorie, an avowed cat-lover, has dressed up as Cruella de Ville this Halloween.

I think she pulls it off very well, but our white & black spotted Miss Patch is quaking in her, paws...

Friday, October 29, 2010

Strutting my stuff

At the JC Penney store where I work, we dress up in costumes several times a year. We had a pajama party theme last Halloween, beach party theme in the late spring, and this year, our Halloween theme was Western - cowboys and Indians. A good time is had by all, the customers think it's a hoot, and during the event, we don't have to dress up according to the company's fashion standard.

Unlike my associates, I do not posess (nor do any of my friends or family) anything remotely western (to say nothing of Indian/native American), and I wasn't willing to spend money on cowboy boots/hats, etc. So I decided to do country-western and dress as Dolly Parton. I got a tight-fitting mini dress at the Goodwill store, spike heels with a faux cow-hide finish, and borrowed a friend's blonde wig. I stuffed my bra with a dozen socks, struggled to put on pantyhose and the stupid shoes, did a dramatic makeup job, put on my glitziest jewelry (glitzy is not my style), and finally the wig.

Then I went hunting for my husband to take a photo of me in that getup, but he was out in the "back 40" and there was no way I could go fetch him while wearing those shoes, so I took some photos of myself in a full-length mirror. They all had some major flash action (I believe I stated before that I'm a terrible photographer), but this photo gives you the general idea.

When I was finished putting myself together, I thought, "You don't look like Dolly Parton. You look like an out-of-work hooker." That didn't seem like the right message to convey at a family store like JCP, so I quickly changed into a plaid shirt and jeans (SIZE 10, y'all!) and hurried off to work.

I didn't win a costume prize, but I did win the prize (a $10 JCP gift card) for my decorated pumpkin. The lasting prize for this failed costume was looking at my body in the tight dress and high heels and thinking, "Dang! You look pretty hot for an old broad!"

Monday, October 25, 2010

Does the Band Really Work?

Recently a person who had attended a weight loss surgery seminar the previous night asked if I could help her make sense of what she heard there. The surgeon who spoke was very anti-band. He said the band is fickle, he would never perform band surgery, and he believed that in 10 years, the band would be obsolete in the US. The person who listened to his anti-band tirade was very discouraged about the band when she left the seminar. When she got home and researched the band on the internet, she found that it has only a 55% long-term success rate. She doesn't want her stomach and intestines cut up and rearranged, she's willing to make healthy diet and physical activity changes, but when she sees others struggling to work the band and hears a surgeon say it's useless, she doesn't know what to think.

Here's what I told her. I don't know the source of the 55% long term success rate you quoted, and since the surgeon who spoke at the seminar refuses to perform band surgery, you're not going to get any accurate info from him. From my own research, I learned that long term success with the band is about the same as with gastric bypass - 65% at 5 years post-op.

Why isn't that figure 100%? Because obesity is a chronic disease and no bariatric surgical procedure can cure it. Why does the bypass seem to work "better" than the band? Probably because of the malabsorption feature. Since you've decided you don't want your intestines re-routed, that leaves the band or the sleeve as your WLS choices. If you don't want your innards cut up permanently, that leaves the band as your only WLS choice.

The band worked for me because I was a volume eater and because I was committed to making the lifestyle changes needed for long term success. My surgeon told me at the outset that if I lost only 50% of my excess weight, he would consider my band surgery to be successful. You might think, "Why would I go through all of this just to lose 50% of my excess weight?" Well, consider the alternatives...disease, disability, death. When I had lost "only" 50% of my excess weight, my co-morbidities were all either gone or under control, and I felt great - I felt very successful!

Just because a statistic indicates that 100% weight loss and lifetime maintenance aren't guaranteed doesn't mean that the weight loss and maintenance are impossible. I don't pay much attention to statistics any more. I don't want numbers to run my life, and as an old boss of mine used to say, "Figures can lie and liars can figure."

That anti-band surgeon could be right. In 10 years, gastric banding might disappear forever as a treatment for obesity. In 10 years, someone might have invented a non-surgical cure for obesity. In 20 years, someone might have invented a vaccine that prevents obesity from ever happening. And that would be wonderful. But in 20 years, I'll be 77 years old. If I had put off obesity treatment that long, I probably wouldn't have lived long enough to benefit from the treatment. So I decided to make the best of the surgical treatments available now so that I can make the best of the next 20, 30, or 40 years of my life.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How to Stop Eating

How to stop eating? That's an ambitious topic. I could write a PhD dissertation on that, but I'll try to keep this brief.

A while back, a bandster buddy asked me a good question: how do you stop eating? How do you stop eating when you haven't yet had a fill? And after you've had some fills, exactly how do you know to stop eating? Does the band make you stop, or do you have to make yourself stop? The answer is simple and complex at the same time: at some point in your journey on the bandwagon (I wish I could predict when), the band will start doing a lot of the work for you. Some of the work will always be up to you. You will have to make good food choices, control your portion sizes, resist emotional eating, eat carefully, and so on. Your band will never do those things for you. All your band will do is provide early and prolonged satiety.

Satiety is the sensation of having eaten enough food for now. It is NOT the same as feeling "full." If you eat until you feel full, you have overeaten. Overeating, or pouch packing, will eventually lead to problems. The pressure of the extra food in the upper pouch can displace the band (a band slip) and/or enlarge the pouch or esophagus (dilation).You can start your band work even before you have a fill. If you master good eating habits and learn to pay close attention to how you feel as you eat now, it will be a lot easier to deal with conflicting signals from your brain and your band later on. You will learn the soft stop signals (runny nose, hiccup, burp, sneeze, sigh, etc.) and heed them before that one-bite-too-many triggers a hard stop (pain, PB, stuck, sliming). Don't expect any of this to feel comfortable, natural or automatic at first. Changing your behavior (whether it involves eating, exercising, interpersonal relationships, etc.) takes practice.

Here is a list of things that have helped me learn to control my portions and avoid overeating.

1. Don't prepare more food than you plan to eat at one meal. I'm responsible for feeding dinner to two adults, but I used to cook as if I was feeding the 101st Field Artlllery. All that extra food is just too hard to resist. If you do end up with extra food, immediately put it in a sealed storage container and stick it in the fridge or freezer.

2. Don't put serving dishes of food on the dining table. Again, it's just too hard to resist.

3. Weigh and/or measure your planned food, then put HALF of it on your plate. Take the plate to the dining table, sit down, eat it while following good band eating skills. If you don't get a "soft stop" sooner, eat until the food is gone. Then ask yourself: Am I still physically hungry? Is my stomach growling? Do I feel faint with hunger? If the answer to any of those is yes, go back and serve yourself the rest of the food, take it to the table, sit down again, start eating, and go through the whole process again. If the answer is "No, I'm not hungry, but the food is delicious and I'm going to eat the rest of it because it's in my meal plan for today," you'll have to remind yourself about the consequences of overeating (described above).

3. If you don't eat the entire planned, measured meal, throw away the extra food or put it in the fridge. It's OK to eat it later if you get hungry again in an hour or so. Just don't eat it now.

4. When the planned, measured food is gone, the meal is over. Immediately excuse yourself, get up from the table, take the plate to the sink, and wash it (or rinse it and put in the dishwasher). You can go sit back down and enjoy the companionship of your friends or family, or you can move on to something else. When I'm done eating, I clean up the kitchen and then as quickly as possible, remove myself from the scene and get involved in something else. Whatever you do, don't hang around food any longer than you have to.

5. Another technique to try: just before you sit down to eat, set a timer for 15 minutes. When the timer buzzes, go through your Am I Still Hungry routine. If your food is gone before the timer buzzes, you have eaten too fast!

6. When eating in a social situation (like at someone else's home), you can still do the plate removal. Get up, say something like, "Let me help you clear the table" or "Can I get anything from the kitchen while I'm up?" and get rid of that plate.

7. When eating in a restaurant, ask the server to bring you a to-go box with your meal. Eyeball the amount of food you're going to eat at that meal and put the rest of the food in the box. Seal the box and put it in a tote bag (I don't leave home without my tote bag!). If it's still too tempting, take it out to your car and lock it in there. Don't worry about it spoiling in the heat or freezing in the cold out there. You are NOT obliged to eat that food later. If you just can't bear the thought of wasting food, keep a small cooler in your car.

8. When eating in a restaurant, the instant you get a "soft stop", put your napkin over your plate. This sounds gruesome, like you're putting a shroud over a dead body. But the meal is OVER - say goodbye. If you can catch the attention of the waitperson, ask them to remove the plate. If you're really bold (like me), carry the plate to the nearest busperson's station (you'll know you've found it when you see a tray covered with dirty dishes).

Now, I completely understand that you may try all of these tricks and still WANT to go on eating no matter what your band or your body has to say about it. But dealing with the emotional or mental issues that might be going on is beyond the scope of this particular article.

When you've had a chance to monitor your eating and your stop signals, please share them with us!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

2 NSV's in one day

Yesterday I worked at JCP from 3:30-9:00 pm. I love that job, but it seemed like every mean or stupid person in the county was in the store last night. Also, I have a stiff neck, with frequent painful spasms, so my patience was pretty thin. One customer argued with me over the price of a clearance item. The pink clearance price ticket said: 70% off = $14.20. She insisted that the price of the item was 70% of $14.20, not 70% off the original price. Apparently she had grown to adulthood without learning what an equal sign means. Gritting my teeth probably didn't help my stiff neck.
But anyway, on the positive side, I had 2 NSV's at work yesterday.
1. For the past week or so, my bra fitter apron has been sliding around on my torso, kind of annoying. I finally realized why. The waist ties are too long. I don't tie them - I put velcro on the ends when I first got the apron last fall. So I brought the apron home so I can cut the ties and put new Velcro on them. I hate that kind of chore, but I'm happy to do it because it reminds me that I'm a smaller person now than I was a year ago!
2. During a slow period last night, I wandered over to the shoe department to chat with the 2 college kids working there and the college girl working in jewelry. That kind of chatting is frowned upon - if a JCP Secret Shopper caught us doing that, we'd be in big time trouble - but it's hard to suppress the social instinct. We've all learned little tricks to make us look busy when we're socializing. While we talked, I straightened garments on a juniors clearance rack. I do that so mindlessly that sometimes I don't even see the garment - it's just background noise, so to speak. But last night I happened to notice that some nice skinny leg jeans had been put on clearance, so I pulled one out to look at it and check the price. When I did that, one of the college girls said, "You're at the wrong end of the rack, Miss Jean. You need to move down a few feet into the small sizes." I laughed. I had automatically pulled out a size 19 to evaluate it for fit and appearance!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Little Kittens & Little Grandma

Usually I would save this kind of photo for my critter blog (, but I'm posting it here because it's one of those photos that reminds me, "Hey, you've lost a ton of weight and you look great!"
And of course, my mouth is open because I'm lecturing my poor husband about how to use the camera.

A scale victory

After my mom died last fall - when at the same time I was working crazy hours at my new retail job, didn't have much fill in my band, and couldn't get more fills because of my flipped port - I gained weight. I was just trying to survive from one day to the next and not putting much energy into good food choices. This April I had my port repositioned, started getting fills again in May, and got back on the bandwagon.

This morning when I weighed, I was delighted to see that I'm finally back in the 130's, only 8 pounds away from my lowest weight. I've lost 15 lbs since my port repair surgery. To celebrate, I tried on some of my size 10 pants and they fit! Not very comfortably, but I could get the zipper closed! Hurray for me!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Things are looking better today

Today, my printer reduced Bandwagon's cost so that I'm no longer losing money on Amazon orders, and also has indefinitely postponed the due date for the invoice for the last print run, so my cash flow problem is more bearable at the moment. And my rep told me that Amazon is running out of books already - the next shipment will arrive at their distribution center on Friday - so it's likely they'll be placing another reorder soon.

My rep said, "Guess what Bandwagon's Amazon ranking is today?"

Since it was 83,740 yesterday, I said, "40,000."

She said, "Guess again."

I said, "4,000."

She laughed. "No, not yet. Today it's 8,221!"

I am simply amazed by all of this. My rep said, "We're going to work with you on this so you don't lose money, because this is a book with legs."

Or wheels, as the case may be!

Monday, October 4, 2010

But the bad news is...

I just got a call from my customer service rep at NetPub (the company that does the printing and order fulfillment for Bandwagon). She wanted to know if I was aware that the deeply discounted price that Amazon pays for my book is lower than my cost to print it.

I said, "Yes, I was aware, though not to the penny. I don't want to lose money on this book, but I felt strongly that pricing it higher than $19.95 would greatly limit its sales."

She said, "A book of this size [576 pgs] is usually priced at $25 to $35."

I said, "Yeah, and I could price Bandwagon at $1 million and make a lot of money if I could just find one person to pay $1 million for it."

She laughed and told me that it's very difficult to change a book's retail price once it's in the market, so she's going to talk to her boss about reducing my printing cost. I thanked her for looking after me.

Thinking about it after we hung up, I wondered if I had made a bad decision when I listed the book with Amazon. I just felt that Bandwagon would get good exposure there... that the Amazon listing was a way to advertise it. But that advertising is not free!

Go, Bandwagon!

As I mentioned before, Amazon usually orders only 1 or 2 copies of a new book, but they ordered 20 copies of Bandwagon as their starting inventory. When I checked my book inventory on the fulfillment house's web site this morning, I saw that Amazon has ordered another 60 copies! And the book is ranked #83,470 on Amazon's best-seller list, whereas my novel (No Ransom) is #2,706,442!