Friday, March 21, 2014

The best thing since sliced bread

I recently received an unexpected package in the post. It turned out to be a free sample of a new cookie developed by Weight To Go. 'A diet chocolate cookie', I thought, 'how marvellous!' A day or two later I found myself peckish and remembered the cookie. As I tore off the silver foil wrapping I couldn't help noticing how heavy it felt - dense and solid - not like a normal cookie at all. I glanced at the nutritional information and was horrified to see that this mere cookie would set me back more than 400 calories. Granted, it had a higher proportion of protein and fibre, and less saturated fats than a 'standard' cookie, but at a whopping 400+ calories this was not just going to be a snack, more a meal replacement.

I bit into to it and discovered it had the density of a car tyre, and was as chewy as molten rubber. The taste was a mixture of yoghurty, chocolatey (but only slightly), burnt egg white! Now, I'm willing to eat stuff that tastes and feels really nasty if the nutritional benefits are there, but this thing not only weighs half a tonne, it has more than 400 calories in it! It might have lots of protein and fibre, but surely I'd be better off eating a banana? In fact I'd probably do better, calorie-wise, eating a banana dipped in chocolate sauce to be honest! Sorry, Weight To Go, but this is a case of tear up the recipe and start again.

That said, the Weight To Go shakes are, for me, literally, the best thing since sliced bread. I NEVER start my day without a strawberry shake, and over the past four years they've solved a life-long problem I used to have with eating breakfast - namely - I didn't! They're not cheap, but for anyone with a gastric band who finds it difficult, like me, to eat solid food in the morning, then these shakes provide the perfect protein-rich kickstart to the day (along with a mug of strong black coffee, of course!).

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The pain in Spain….

….falls mainly on the grain.

Basically, I'm in Spain for a week, working in the field. I was here at the same time last year and experienced the same problems with my band then as I'm experiencing now. It's got really tight, and I'm struggling to know why. It's taking me ages to drink anything, I've just tried to eat half a banana and had to rush to the toilet to throw up, I can't eat any bread at all, and I'm only managing soup and soft stuff in the evenings. But why? Here are some thoughts:

Flying: Last year, I thought it might be something to do with the flight - the cabin pressure or associated dehydration. But the only things I can find on the web about bands and flying are anecdotal, and relate only to long haul flights, so this doesn't seem likely.
Activity: I've been getting lots of exercise, but I get intense periods of exercise at other times of the year too and have no effects like this.
The food: I've not been having my usual breakfast (half a litre of strawberry milk-based protein shake), lunch is a huge white baguette with cheese or tuna and salad (I don't normally eat bread, and never white), and evening meals are 3-course, large, and very low in fat (I normally have a small, protein-rich meal with a 'normal' fat portion).
Drink: Earlier in the week there is no doubt that I got dehydrated, but for the past couple of days I've been working much harder to make sure I get enough to drink.
Climate: Last year it was very warm, but this year has been much cooler - more like typical British temperatures in October. So this doesn't seem likely.
Medication: I am taking methylphenidate for my ADHD and it is known to suppress appetite - but I wasn't taking this last year.

So the most likely thing seems to be the change in my food and drink habits. I'll be back here again next year and I'm not sure what I can do to change things, to be honest. However, on the plus side, although I'm suffering a little at the moment, this glitch may result in kick-starting some more weight loss….

Last year, I arrived in Spain weighing 17st and 3lbs. I arrived home after one week sighing ten pounds less. Then, without any particular effort on my part, I lost a further 22lbs over the following six months or so. So when I arrived in Spain this year, I weighed 14st and 13 lbs. The way I am feeling at the moment, I will not be that weight when I get home tomorrow. And who knows, maybe the loss will keep coming?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

After 4.5 years it's finally working how it should!

Since my last post in November things have changed somewhat. We moved house in December, Christmas was upon us, and then I went on a field trip to Spain with a group of students. Although I'd eaten a fair bit over Christmas - who doesn't! - something happened on that field trip..... I just struggled to eat the food they provided. Granted, there was a lot of stodgy, high carb food (ideal for teenage boys on fieldwork, but not great for a bandit!), but do you know what, I could hardly be bothered to eat! I came back half a stone lighter after one week away, and the trend has continued ever since. Slowly, but steadily I have continued to lose weight without really trying. It's as though my brain has finally caught up with my body. I need to explain that don't I?! All my life my body has screamed out 'you're not hungry, you're full, you don't need to eat any more'. But my brain - I'm guessing the emotional bit - has argued back 'yes I do NEED this food'.

For the past six months I just haven't been that bothered about food, for the first time in my life. In fact, also for the first time in my life, I have experienced actually being hungry on quite a few occasions! I'm getting great restriction and there is no way I need another fill, my band is working just fine as it is. In fact, I think that for the first time in the 4.5 years that me and Mr Band have been awkward housemates, we are finally starting to get along.

I've more or less given up eating bread all together and I really struggle with stodgy stuff like rice, pasta and potatoes - unless it's either (a) quite late in the day, or (b) has lots of sauce or fatty stuff with it. I rarely eat anything solid before about 2pm (I have a protein shake for breakfast and often have soup for lunch). However, I find I can eat quite a bit in the evening.

My only real challenge now is to try to swap the odd biscuits and cakes for fruit or something a bit healthier. But I've decided not to beat myself up about it too much, after all, I'm losing weight slowly (about 31 pounds since Christmas) and not having to work too hard at it!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Getting more restriction now

Had another fill yesterday, of 1.4ml, taking me to 6.4ml now. I was pleasantly surprised to discover, when I got to the clinic, that the lady who filled me last time wasn't there (see my last post for an explanation!). Instead, it was the senior nurse who has seen me on and off for the last four years, and I've every confidence in her. The fill went extremely smoothly and I've no had adverse side-effects like last time. Phew! I've been on fluids and very soft foods since so it's difficult to tell exactly how much restriction I've now got. However, I definitely feel more restriction than I did before, but I suspect I will need another fill or two before I'm at optimum. With Christmas, and a house-move coming up, I'll probably wait until the New Year before going for my next fill.

I will be pleased to get some more restriction though, because I've been really struggling to control my eating over the last few weeks and have steadily been gaining a few pounds. It's such a shame because after a long time of struggling I had actually begun to start making some real progress earlier this year.

For now, my plan is simply to try to re-gain all those good habits - eating slowly, eating crunchy, healthy foods, controlling portion size, eating with a small fork (yes, really), and keeping a food diary. I'll let you know how I get on!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Horrid fill experience

Two weeks ago I had my first fill after having my band completely emptied before that. As I anticipated, my fill was 5ml, the same as it was the first time around - four years ago! However, my fill experience was not the same as previous fills at all. This was the first time I had been seen by this nurse. She said she had worked there for 18 months but I hadn't seen her before. She prodded, pushed, kneaded and pulled, and eventually stuck the needle in. Then she did some more prodding and pushing, pulled the needle out, and went through the process all over again. It wasn't what I would call painful, but most uncomfortable. She said a couple of times that it was difficult because the needle was "right on the edge". This worried me because last time I had been here at the clinic I got chatting to a lady who had had to have surgery to replace her port because it has somehow sprung a leak. She suspected the last nurse to give her a fill because it had been a difficult experience. I was starting to worry that putting the needle in right on the edge might cause a leak in my port too, and I'd end up having more surgery - at my expense of course.

Anyway, I gritted my teeth and thought of England, as they say! When I got home I did as I always do, and pulled off the plaster. I had expected to see one of those tiny round plasters, but instead it was quite a large one. This surprised me because none of the previous nurses had ever needed to use a large plaster, and also because it should have said clearly on my records that I am allergic to Elastoplast.....!

Later that day, the area where the needle had gone in was bright red and itching like mad. This was true for an area about 5cm (2inches) in diameter. It stayed extremely itchy for the next five or six days and was so bad at times I had to take a strong antihistamine to relieve the itching and swelling. The redness faded into a huge multi-coloured bruise and eventually the itching receded. The area is now finally back to normal after two weeks.

I've made another appointment for my next fill and am going to see the same nurse again. This wasn't by choice, but she's the only one available at the moment. When I booked my appointment I explained to the practice manager my concerns and she advised me to speak to the nurse on the day and tell her what happened. I'll certainly do that! Apparently the top man of the practice will be on duty that day, so I can ask for him to do the fill if the nurse starts to have any problems like last time. Not looking forward to it though!

Since my last fill I have felt a little restriction but nowhere near enough. I am eating like a horse to be honest and my portion sizes have definitely increased. I've also found that I'm eating a lot more carbs instead of focusing on proteins as I was doing previously. Hopefully the next fill will get me back on track...... Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mr Tortoise gets a PB!

I was looking at my banner this morning and it occurred to me that I had selected the right icon - a tortoise - as the slide bar! I recall when I first got banded and discovered lots of fellow bandits had their own ticker factory banner. I remember thinking that some people didn't appear to have made that much progress over a period of time. And four years on, I am one of those people! I've lost 55lbs in four years and still had about 80-something pounds to go. But that got me thinking about my target - is 10 stone and 5 lbs really realistic for me anymore?

Other than when I briefly passed by that weight as a growing teenager, I've only been that weight once in my life. I was aged 23 and was running 40 miles per week! I went through a two year phase of being addicted to running, entering competitions, and achieving personal best after personal best. [as an aside, I was going to put PB instead of personal best, but nowadays that means something different to us bandits!!!]. At the time I was eating loads, but burning it all off, of course. Then I got injured and the running had to stop - but unfortunately the eating didn't.

So anyway, I've concluded that 145lbs is wishful thinking to the point of silliness. I'm 5ft 8ins and have a large frame (bone structure, I mean) - so it just isn't going to happen. So, I've changed my target weight to 12 stone. I've been there once or twice before and have been quite happy with my look and feel. If I ever get there again, I can think then about whether a lower target is realistic.

But for now, I've amended my target on the ticker, and Mr Tortoise has just had a surge of energy and belted along the race track - and he's now almost a the half way point! Cheered me up anyway!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Patience - an important lesson

I thought I'd give you a little insight into how things have been for me in the last year. A year ago I had a small fill, taking my total band fill up to about 7.7ml. This gave me a really nice level of restriction and for the first time in a while, I felt that my band could really help me to control my eating. However, the thorn in this theory was my binge-eating, primarily chocolate focused. At that time I was eating at least six or seven bars of chocolate per day, often eight bars, plus some other cakes and trifles. I estimate that I was consuming 1500-2000 calories per day through chocolate, ON TOP of a normal diet of about the same. It doesn't need a mathematician to work out that I was consuming nearly twice the calories that I actually needed. No wonder I was steadily gaining weight. I tried all kinds of things to cut down on the chocolate but nothing worked.

I have always subscribed to the view that a diet should be sustainable, otherwise it won't work. By the same token, I have always believed that since 'normal' people can eat a little chocolate, so should I be able to. And so my efforts over the years have been to cut down on chocolate consumption, rather than to cut it out all together. But I finally saw sense on May 25th this year, when I took the decision to completely cut out chocolate from my diet. Since that time I have very, very slowly begun to take back control over my diet and begun to lose weight again.

I thought I'd quote an anonymous comment on an earlier post (from 2010): "I too am a chocoholic and I have successfully lost weight in the past only to pile it back on (I was 5.5st lighter 2 years ago). I have come to the conclusion that I cannot eat any chocolate - total abstinence is the only way forward (I have managed to give up chocolate for years in the past and I always become complacent: "a little won't hurt....." - the trouble is I cannot eat just a "little". - Well there's at least a little comfort in knowing I'm not the only one!!

A year ago, I weighed 17 stone and 4 lbs, and now I'm exactly a stone less. So it's taken me six months to lose a stone, but maybe this is another lesson that I have learned from the last four years of being a bandit - patience, patience, patience - you can never have too much! Don't rush things, it's a marathon not a sprint. It is better to take six years to lose all the weight I want to, and to keep it off by developing good habits, than to lose it all in a year and put much of it back on again (which is effectively what happened to me).

Next time, more about the acid problem over the last year.... Bet you can't wait!!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

An acid-free night!

I'm back on solid food today after my complete de-fill last Saturday. I've had no problems eating, but then I wouldn't expect to with an empty band. I'm still surprised, though, that I still have a significant amount of restriction, presumably just from the presence of the band itself. I am still getting pretty full after eating small portions. The bariatric nurse said to book an appointment for. Re-fill three weeks after the de-fill, but the way I am going I will be a little frightened doing that, and afraid that my acid reflux will come back.

The news on my acid reflux is that last night, for the first time in over a year, I didn't take any medication at all, and I had a good night's sleep. I plan on doing the same tonight, and see what happens.

So what have I eaten today?

Breakfast: Strawberry protein shake made up with soya milk and water.
Mid-morning snack: A sneaky cake. It was very small, but I was stuffed afterwards!
Late lunch: Weight watchers ocean pie (only 190 calories).
Afternoon snack: Some olives and pistachios.
Dinner: Wholewhat rice with flageolet beans, steamed aubergine and red onion. Followed by a fat free Greek-style yoghurt.

I must say, I really enjoyed my dinner - the first proper meal I have had in more than a week!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Slightly confused.....?

After my complete de-fill two days ago I've had a slightly confusing time. I had expected to be extremely hungry, but I haven't been. I guess there's still enough restriction from having the band, albeit empty, that it staves off the hunger pangs. On Saturday night I had no acid reflux at all, so I had the first decent sleep I've had in ages. But Sunday night I woke up with a nasty dull ache in my chest - about where my band is. It went off after a while and I went back to sleep. But the pain came back with a vengeance about half an hour after I got up this morning. I'm not sure what it is or what causes it. All I can do at the moment is monitor it - but it is a little worrying. All the talk of possibly needing an x-ray on Saturday has got me wondering what could possibly have gone wrong? If anything? I suppose I just have to be patient.

As far as food is concerned, I'm all souped out! My diet has consisted of soup, smoothies, yoghurt and milkshake (not all at once!). At work today, I took a can of soup with me. I hadn't realised until I went to open it, however, that it didn't have a ring-pull, and I didn't have a tin opener! I ended up trawling around people's offices trying to find someone who might have a Swiss Army knife! I found one eventually (thanks Ade!).

Tonight I've already had some mushroom soup (blended to remove the bits), and I'll have a fruit smoothie soon. I'm planning on moving onto mushy food tomorrow, and am looking forward to an ocean pie for tea!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Scary times.....

Thanks Maria (you know who you are), for convincing me that I should get back blogging. Over the coming days and weeks I can fill in some of the gaps since I last posted, but for now, I'm in a scary times sort of limbo - my band has been emptied this morning. 

 I've often wondered what it would feel like to have no restriction again, so I could compare it with how I have felt over the last four years since getting bended in the first place. But I never actually thought I would experience 'emptiness' so to speak. So why, I hear you ask? Acid. Or acid reflux to be more accurate. I've had it on and off for long periods over the last couple of years and I think I'm due some serious commission from Zantac, Rennie and Gaviscon. I've had two small de-fills already to try and solve the problem, but each time, I get a few weeks of improvement and then it comes back again. If you've never had acid reflux it's horrid. You get woken up many times in the middle of the night with this nasty acidic taste in your mouth and sometimes acid shooting up the back of your throat. You never get a decent nights sleep and it just wears you down. Things have got quite bad because I've even been getting it during the day over the last couple of weeks. Hence my visit to my friendly bariatric nurse, Clare. 

 I thought it might be a case of needing yet another small de-fill but Clare convinced me that it wouldn't solve the problem, and that I needed for my band to be completely emptied to let my stomach settle down. I've to see if things improve over the next week, and if not, book an x-ray appointment to see what's going on. If things do settle down, then I can skip the x-ray and start to get my band re-filled again in about three weeks time. 

 The band was emptied two hours ago and I don't feel any different yet. Maybe I'm expecting to be ravenously hungry, or maybe the presence of the band itself will provide enough restriction to keep the hunger pangs at bay. I don't know. I'm really not sure what to expect, but I'll keep you posted.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Sparkling insight

One of the comments on a post a few days ago, generously contributed by Sparkler, demonstrated incredible insight into some aspects of my predicament. I'm going to address them one by one and see where it takes me:

This is a really tough time in the journey...all the newness has worn off, you're nearly there so you're probably pretty comfortable with your weight right now, so the urgency has dropped.

That is SOoooo right. Truth is, if I didn't lose another pound - I'd be a little disappointed but I wouldn't be devastated, because the worst of the weight has gone. I started at 20 stone, I now weigh about 12 and a half. I'd like to be ten and a half - but I'm thin enough that I can walk, jog, swim - and all with relative comfort. I can buy 'normal' clothes in 'normal' shops for the first time in my adult life and so the urgency has gone. Spot on Sparkler. But when I sit down and really think about it - I don't want to settle for this - it is less than I wanted when I started out and I want better. I am not looking for perfection but I do want to be in control of my eating and my weight. No, I wouldn't be devastated if I didn't lose another pound, but I don't think I would look upon my band experience as a complete success either.

Everything about the band is so familiar which means it doesn't take much thinking about.

Yes, you're right again. But this is the problem. I often THINK it doesn't need thinking about because it's so familiar - but actually it does. For example, I thought I'd 'cracked' the think about not drinking after eating - I thought it had become second nature. But in the last few months I have got back into bad habits again. Also, I have had more slime and regurgitation events in the last few months than I've ever had. This is not because my band is too tight - it's because sometimes I just forget it is there and get back to old eating habits (eating too much, too quick, the wrong type of food, eating while distracted etc). I probably need to get out my old 'band manual' and re-read it again from start to finish and keep on reminding myself that I have a little friend inside me - and it's going to be there for life....

I'd be interested to hear what your restriction is like now on an average day. Do you still eat the same small portion sizes or are you able to eat more at a sitting? Do you still have certain foods that are a no-go area? What's it like once it all becomes routine, mundane and everyday?

When I make good food choices I have excellent 'sweet spot' restriction. My meals are small and they fill me up. I can't guzzle a drink down fast like I used to but have to take it in smaller mouthfuls and slowly. I'm much more restricted in the morning and can't really eat much till mid-morning. IF (and it's a big IF) I don't eat chocolate and other 'bad' foods, I exist very happily on about 1200 calories a day and don't feel physically hungry at all. There's no sign of my band getting looser. There are very fews that are a no-go area - mainly chips (French fries), very fatty foods like battered fish (chip-shop style), and the skins of cherry tomatoes and grapes! I avoid white bread but can easily eat whoolemeal bread (though not in large quantity). Many of the things that I used to perceive as big problems or difficulties - just aren't! I can eat out but do so very cautiously. So far I have avoided having any embarrassing incidents while eating out and would like it to remain that way!

Good luck with getting that focus back to fight off that last stubborn stone and a half. Actually having a break from the strict regime probably won't do you any harm as once you get back to your walking and cut out the lovely but lethal chocolate you'll be like a new dieter who has a really rewarding first three weeks or so. A post-Easter resolution perhaps?

You may be right about having a break from the strict regime but I think I need to get back to it soon. Now that work has eased off I am finding time to get back to some exercise - walking, stepping and swimming mainly. I think you are right - I will wait until I am firmly back in the UK after my trip and then set a date to kick-start my band-life.

Many thanks for your insight and encouragement!

Monday, April 5, 2010

A few light snacks......

Here's what I went out and bought this afternoon to meet my 'needs' - a small buttons Easter egg (yes, there are still a few left in the shops), a box of Weight Watchers (ironic, I know) carrot cake slices, a packet of cashew nuts, a chocolate muffin mousse, two kitkats (I ate one of them on the way home), two Freddo bars, a plain chocolate bar (apparently they're less addictive...?), some maltesers, a Dairy Milk bar, three strawberry trifles and a bag of mini chocolate eggs. I expect much of this will have been consumed by this time tomorrow - on top of my normal 'meals'. Of course, my meals are generally quite 'healthy' and I experience a good level of restriction when I eat them. But this lot - no chance - no restriction whatever.

I looked up 'how do I stop emotional eating' on the web today and came across an organisation called Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous - they're U.S-based and styled on A.A. (Alcoholics Anonymous). Unbelievably, there's a group operating in Liverpool so once I am back from my travels (I am away in Washington D.C. from Thursday for a week), I may give them a call and see if they can help.
I used to call my bingeing 'comfort eating' but I've given it a lot of thought and I know I don't just do it for 'comfort' - it's also when I'm lonely, stressed, fearful, bored, anxious, lacking courage, self esteem or confidence, and just about any other negative emotion you can think of. It's clearly a serious problem for me and one that threatens to jeopardise my band success so far. I have to get it sorted.
As I say, I'm off overseas for a week in a few days and my eating habits will be at the mercy of travel arrangements, hotels, conference organisers and the like - so I'll make do with what I get and when I get it. But once I return I have to tackle this problem head-on or I'll be back where I started. I'm thinking I may make an appointment with the hynotherapist I cancelled a few weeks ago - anyone got any experience of hynotherapy? Does it work? Can I be hypnotised to hate chocolate for the rest of my life? Will it help me gain* control of what food goes into my mouth?
*I was going to write 're-gain' - but I'm not sure I ever had any control to start with! I wonder why..... what happened in my childhood that made me this way? If I get control of eating, will I start to crave something else - will I become an alcoholic or smoker instead? .......or perhaps a sex-maniac - now that would be something!!!!!!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Back to bandland

Hello everybody - it's been a while! As I sit here wondering what to type, I look back on the past few months and ask myself what has happened? Why have I deserted my blog? It's not just the blog, I have also rarely visited the UKGastricBand forum in the last couple of months - which previously I had visited several times a day. I also kept a food diary - yes, that book in the kitchen that hasn't been touched for a couple of months now. I religiously weighed myself every morning - and now it's once or twice a week - if I dare. If I look through my cupboards in the kitchen, I notice some old favourites have crept back in - bottles of Diet Coke, and the dreaded chocolate. And yes, I know it's Easter, and we can all be forgiven a little luxuriating in the brown stuff at this time of year - but I've hardly stopped eating the stuff for weeks now.

So I ask again - what's going on? I think it's a combination of things - there's no straightforward answer. Here's a few stabs at what is going wrong:

1. The 'light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel' blues. Looking at the UKGB forum, it's clear that this doesn't only apply to me. As we get closer to our goal weight - that elusive target that for the first time actually appears reachable - it somehow remains just out of our grasp. I've lost nearly eight stone and have a relatively paltry one-and-a-half left to go - yet it's the hardest few pounds of the lot. I've made all of the major changes to portion sizes, exercise, bad habits (though some have crept back in) - so every ounce now needs a monumental effort to lose. The result is, frustration begins to set in - and in my case - that leads to stress - which is relieved through eating. Back to the vicious circle.

2. Workaholicism (is that a new word I've invented?!). I know I can't blame everything on work - but this really has been the hardest extended period at work I've ever experienced. Since late August 2009 until the beginning of March this year - it has just been bedlam. I've literally done nothing but work, work, and work. Exercise has all but disappeared from my life, as has any social life, family life and relaxation. Don't get me wrong - I still manage to watch the goggle box from time to time - but it's not so much relaxation as complete collapse! On the bright side, work has definitely got better in the last three or four weeks and should remain so until the real pressure begins all over again in September (!). But I'm making the most of it and have already begun getting back on the exercise treadmill (not literally).

3. Chocaholicism (another new word). Mmm, yes, not sure how to lick this one (another awful pun!). I am clearly addicted to chocolate. Apparently it's not possible to be physiologically addicted to chocolate in the way that you can be addicted to drugs, caffeine, nicotine etc. But it IS possible to be emotionally addicted to chocolate - and I am. I actually booked an appointment with a hypnotherapist some weeks back, but then bottled out at the last minute and cancelled it! Having re-thought this - I'm going to have another go in the next few weeks definitely - what's the worst it can do? And it might actually help.

4. No longer a newbie. Sometimes I look on the UKGB forum and see the same old questions being posed by newbies - the questions I posed myself when I first started out on this journey. I answer questions occasionally but I'm not really sure what I can offer anymore. It's the same with this blog. I've probably said all of the really important things and I sometimes think can I really add anything useful anymore? However, one thing that strikes me, is that there is relatively little written on the web by long term bandits. I'd love to know what it's like to be bandit three or five or ten years on. It's also clear to me that the struggles I'm going through now are not the same as those I experienced earlier in my journey. That probably makes it worthwhile continuing to write. However, I'm aware that new bandits, or people thinking about getting banded, don't necessarily want to read about longer term bandits who are struggling and facing all sorts of problems. I'd hate to put anyone off - because whatever struggles I am facing now - I would not change one step of my band journey. If I time-travelled back to the start of my journey, knowing what I know now - I couldn't change a thing. It's been the best thing I ever did in my life.

So, there are several reasons why I will begin to write again - because I now have more time back to myself, because I still think it may help longer term bandits (and help newbies to better informed about the ups and downs of banding), and because I need to give myself some therapy. What's that last point I hear you ask? Well, I know that many of you have enjoyed reading my blog because you've told me so - and that's great. But it's also therapy for me. It's when I'm writing, or thinking about what to write, that I often make important breakthroughs in my own thinking, planning and behaviour analysis. Even as I write this, it has been brought home to me that I have drifted away from some of the cornerstones of my weight loss success so far - my food diary, daily blogging, daily trips to UKGB forum, and generally immersing myself in day-to-day thoughts, facts, ideas about weight loss, exercise, environmental control, habits, portion sizes, calorie counting and the rest. It's as though I've forgotten all of this - it has been put to one side for more important things to take its place. But what is more important than feeling good about oneself, being healthy and fit, looking good, having a respectable level of self esteem, and being able to wear great clothes?!

So, there are lots of reasons why I've been silent for a while but probably as many reasons why I need to get back on the case and start to get serious about my band, my eating, my exercise, and above all - sharing again. Thank you for staying with me.

Oh, and I'm seriously thinking about 'coming out' - watch this space.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ups and downs

Hello people! This has been the longest I've ever left it between posts - I'm writing a Masters thesis so working every waking hour. It'll be done in a week so I can get back to blogging more often. Anyway, what have I been up to? Well in terms of physical activity - absolutely nothing. I've been sitting on my backside most of the time and not got my heart pumping for ages. My eating habits have been all over the place. Some days I've managed to put away 3000 calories or more, and other days I've got by on a third of that! One recent development which is helping things is that I've given up chocolate for Lent! Lent only began this Wednesday so I've gone without the brown stuff for just four days so far - another 36 to go....

Another new development is that in the past month, on days when I've over-eaten, I have had bad acid reflux at night. I've had to lay propped up on pillows and I've been taking Zantac pills to help. Of course when I eat more sensibly the acid disappears - so it's my body's natural warning to do just that. Makes sense really!

Today, somewhat out of the blue, I had one slime episode, and another slimy regurgitation episode. The first was triggered by nothing more than drinking some cold Ribena a little too fast, and the second was triggered by eating half a small yoghurt after my lunch.....?! Anyway, since then I've been eating somewhat cautiously the rest of the day.

Something else happened today which I found surprising. I was talking to a complete stranger at work. She'd obviously seen a head and shoulders photograph of me on the staff noticeboard and commented that I'd lost a lot of weight. I find this surprising because:

1. It was very observant on her part
2. I wasn't aware that it was so obvious - just from a head and shoulders shot
3. She asked how I'd lost the weight and I immediately blurted out 'I've got a gastric band!' - to a complete stranger! Oh well, I'm obviously getting a lot more relaxed about it!

I'll be back posting again soon. All the best.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Intertrigo, going going gone...

In 2004, I developed a horrendous, itchy, red fungal infection under the folds of my hanging stomach (I do hope you weren't eating anything!). It reached its climax when I was on holiday in Canada and I ended up in casualty. That in itself is a long story (about ten hours long if I recollect correctly), but I'll get on with the main point. This red fungal infection turned out to be something called intertrigo, a common fungal infection experienced by obese people with hanging folds of skin. You can get it under armpits, breasts, and groin as well as under the tummy where I got it and it thrives in hot, sweaty places! It doesn't look very nice but the worst part is that it is incredibly itchy - to the point where you feel physically sick.

I got some temporary relief for the condition while on holiday but had to wait till I got back for a longer term solution. In fact I was prescribed a steroid-based cream by my GP which I used, at her insistence, for nearly six months. By this time, the infection had not only resolutely stayed, but I had started to develop horrid, open blisters too. I began to suspect the cream was making things worse and did a bit of Internet research. I discovered to my horror, that the manufacturers recommended the cream not be used for more than ten days - because being steroid-based, it was prone to causing thinning of the skin (permanent) and open, ulcerated blisters!

Needless to say, I stopped using the cream immediately, and on the advice of a pharmacist, reverted to an off-the-shelf product instead. That did the trick and I've used a combination of cream and powder ever since to keep the condition under control. I've been left with permanent scarring under one part of my tummy but I don't suppose I'll be modelling bikinis any time soon - so I can live with it! However, over the past few weeks I have started to think I might be rid of the condition. My tummy still sticks out a bit - that will have to be sorted with some excess akin removal next year. But I don't have a hanging tummy any more. That means the area underneath no longer gets all hot and sweaty - and so it stays dry and fungus-free.

As a result I have started to grow in confidence recently, and gradually cut down on my use of the anti-fungal cream and powder. I've not used either now for the past two weeks and it would appear that my intertrigo has gone!! Yippee!! This is one of the most important outcomes of my weight loss. A few months ago I really thought I would be stuck with having to apply cream and powder to my tum for the rest of my life. I feel a weight (no pun intended) has been lifted off my shoulders.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fat Man Slim

This evening I watched a documentary on Sky Three called Fat Man Slim. It was about an obese, 40 year old successful businessman who decided to change his life. He weighed 26.5 stone and vowed to lose 6 stone in 12 months. He also gave up work for a year so that he and his wife could focus on weight loss, health and fitness. In the event, he lost that amount in the first six months. He did it with his wife by eating non-processed goods, lots of fruit and veg, and doing lots of exercise. 

After achieving his one year target in six months he set a new target to lose another 20kg in the last six months. With two months to go he had just 5kg to go, so he changed it to 10kg because that would have added up to a total of ten stone for the year! He achieved his ten stone goal after one year. Amazing. This is a guy with bucketloads of determination. To continue losing weight at this rate he was going to the gym twice a day, five times a week, and eating three small meals a day. 

It was fascinating to see him go through the same clothes stages that I did - first they wouldn't fit, then they would, they they were too big! 

At the end of his journey his whole face appeared so much thinner and he looked younger and basically fab. Seeing a whole year condensed into an hour offered a fascinating insight into the way that the body can change, given the right treatment. The man, known as 'Squeeze' (!) said that over the year he passed through five emotional phases:
Recovery process

He talked about the inner battle he has had with himself - not just in the past year but always - and not just about weight but with most things. He talked about how he has learnt how to manage this 'inner battle'. The layers of emotional baggage, fat, and constant over-compensation (e.g. for his weight, lack of fitness and self-worth) - they are all gone now. All that's left is him. On the one hand this is great because he's now just himself, but it's also a little scary.  

There was a fascinating meeting with his doctor at about the four month point. The doctor asked him how he was, what he thought of himself having lost so much weight? His response? "I loathe myself less". The doctor was a little taken aback and obviously had no real understanding of the self-loathing and low self-esteem issues faced by many obese people. The doctor afterwards said to the camera that it was surprising that despite all of his successes in life - work, home, marriage - he doesn't have a very high opinion of himself. I can relate to this totally. 
Squeeze said that it's not until you admit you have a problem and commit yourself to changing things, that you start to seriously think about how you see yourself. Maybe you're not so aware of self-loathing before, or perhaps you just bury it. He talked about how he was always seen as the fat fool, disguising inner struggles with humour and bravado: "Bravado is a wonderful tool for divorcing yourself from your situation and I used it in spades". 

And finally, some advice for weight losers who start to get over-confident: "Whenever I started feeling cocky I would stand in front of a full length mirror and jump up and down stark-b*****k naked. Believe me - that's motivation!"  

Saturday, January 16, 2010

How many calories per day?

Thanks to another bandit who posted on the UKGastricBand forum, I've discovered a web site called Calories Count. It has a useful tool for calculating the number of calories required for weight maintenance, but I also found a calculator for determining the number of daily calories required for weight loss. I entered my height, weight and age, and said I was lightly active. This is what it said: Current weight 168lbs; healthy weight range 123-161lbs; activity level - lightly active. Current BMI: 25.9 Healthy BMI range: 18.5 - 24.9.

Daily calorie level to maintain current weight: 1989 calories.
To lose weight: 1489 calories.

"Please note you should not go below 1400 calories per day, as this is the minimum amount necessary to meet your daily nutrient requirements. If the calorie level determined for you is below 1400 calories, you may want to consider increasing your exercise. However, if you are unable to do that, you will still lose weight, it will just be at a slower pace (approximately 1/2 pound or .25 kg per week)."

"To lose one pound (.5 kg) a week, a person must burn 3,500 calories more than are consumed (500 calories per day over the course of a week)."

This is good news for me because I have been really struggling to maintain a 1200 calorie a day intake. I manage it on some days, and sometimes even have less. But on other days it seems woefully inadequate and I end up eating loads more. If I stick to about 1489 per day, then according to this web site, I should still lose one pound per week. I think that at this stage in the weight loss process (i.e. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel), it's no bad thing to increase my daily intake and try to be a bit more consistent - this should help when I get to the point of having to maintain.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Predisposed to gluttony

There was an interesting item on the One Show on BBC this evening. They are taking a look at the seven deadly sins - one each day - and it was gluttony's turn today. First the question was asked, why are we so gluttonous? Is this something we are predisposed to from an evolutionary point of view? Well, apparently yes. In ancient times food was relatively scarce, particularly in the winter months. Therefore we would eat what we could find and hunt in the summer months of relative plenty and gain weight. This extra fat would have seen us through the relatively lean days of the winter. The difficulty for modern (western) people is that food is never in shortage and therefore we simply gain weight and become obese.

The programme makers then asked if there was anything we can do to overcome this - so they performed a simple experiment. They got four people to fast for 24 hours. They were then allowed to eat as much as they wanted. Blood samples were taken during the fasting, during the eating and afterwards. They tested two groups of hormones, those that relate to hunger (ghelin) and several others that indicate satiety - or fullness. They found that, as expected, the ghelin was very high before eating - because they were hungry from their 24h fast. Ghelin levels then fell during eating and again afterwards. However, it took 30 minutes for this hormone to fall. At the same time, the levels of satiety hormones increased during and after eating - but again there was a delay of about 30 minutes before any change took place.

The problem with delay this was illustrated superbly by one of the participants, who, in less than 30 minutes, ate a substantial meal of steak, chips and peas, and no less than FIVE desserts!! This totalled more than 3,000 calories - far higher than the recommended total daily intake for a man of his height and weight! Adrian Chiles, one of the programme presenters joked that he usually tried to eat his food as quickly as possible so that he could eat it all before that 'full' feeling had time to kick in!!

So, the moral of this tale, is EAT SLOWLY! This is what our band providers tell us all the time and here is the reason why. So, message to self: Eat slowly, eat with small utensils to facilitate this, put the knife and fork down between mouthfuls, chew everything a lot to slow it down even further and finally, don't get distracted while eating because this tends to make us eat even faster!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Working with my band

Here is the essence of what I replied to an anonymous comment - you may find it useful:

Stretching your pouch: If you eat very slowly, which is what we are advised to do, then food will gradually pass from the upper pouch into the lower, main stomach. However, if you eat too quickly, or eat too much in one go, there is a small danger of stretching the pouch. This is usually temporary but if serious this can lead to band slippage. However, long before you get to the point of stretching your pouch it is likely that you would experience pain (often referred to by bandits as 'iron fist') behind the breastbone - this is your body's way of warning you that you should slow down when eating!

Anti-hunger pills: The whole point of the band is that by retaining food in the upper pouch, you 'trick' your brain into thinking that you are full, and so don't feel hungry. Therefore, if you work with the band, you shouldn't feel hungry and there should be no need to use additional drugs or supplements to reduce hunger. Personally, I would never use Reducteel or anything similar - I have paid a lot of money to have gastric band surgery and am determined to work with it.

The band and liquids: The band does not restrict liquids at all and we are always encouraged to drink plenty - therefore you should never experience thirst with the band - you can drink as much as you want (however, try to drink calorie-free drinks).

Dealing with hunger: I can honestly say that I have rarely experienced real hunger in my entire life. However, the biggest difficulty that many obese people experience is not real hunger, but what we often refer to as 'head hunger'. In other words - emotional hunger. This is something that the band cannot deal with. As a result of my emotional craving for food, yes, I have eaten loads on occasions, including binge-eating of chocolate. However, most of the foods we eat when over-eating and binging are foods that slip through the band easily anyway (e.g. chocolate, cakes, biscuits, crisps, fast food etc). Therefore, these foods generally don't increase the risk of pouch stretching - but of course they increase all sorts of other health risks.

Advice for new bandits: I think the important thing for a newly-banded person is to find out as much as you can about the band and how it is supposed to work - ideally from medically-trained people. The band will only do 30% of the work in weight loss - we have to work with the band to achieve the other 70% of effort necessary. This is far from easy and requires a considerable effort and commitment on our part. I've fallen flat on my face many times in my band journey because of my own weakness and lack of self-control, but at the same time I know that my band is my friend and if I work with it, it is a friend indeed.

As with all of the things I post on this blog, this is all just my opinion, based on my own research and most importantly, my experience. We all have very different bodies, needs, personalities and histories, so my experience may not be the same as yours! Always try to get support and advice from your band provider, dietician or bariatric nurse.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A long Sunday walk

On Sunday we tackled what will be the first of many Lake District walks this year. We climbed the summits of five Wainwright peaks - Grisedale Pike (791m), Crag Hill (839m), Sail (773m), Outerside (568m) and Barrow (455m). It took us 6.5 hours and included about 1150m of ascent in total, over about 9 miles. The Lake District, like much of the country now, was covered in deep snow, making some parts of the route very hard-going and we wore crampons most of the day. There were lots of other like-minded people out on the fells and the views were breathtakingly beautiful.

We completed the route in semi-darkness and wound our weary way home. Too tired to cook, we defeated some of the calorie-burning achieved by opting for a Chinese takeaway!! I think I have a beter idea now, of the enormity of the challenges I have set myself this year. In addition to completing this 214 challenge, it is also my intention to reach my goal weight - some 22 pounds from my current weight. Although this may seem small amount compared to what I have already lost, it is turning out to be SOooo much harder to shift. Just to make things even more difficult for myself, I also hope, by the end of the year, to have begun the process of removing some of my excess skin - as time goes on I am more convinced of the need for at least two lots of surgery to correct this.

So here we go, hold on for the roller coaster ride that is sure to be 2010!!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

The 214 Challenge for 2010!!

As I hinted at yesterday, I have been thinking for a while that I'd like to take up a serious physical challenge in 2010. As well as helping with my physical fitness it might also contribute to my ongoing weight loss and give me a sense of real achievement. Just as climbers of Everest respond when asked why they do it - "because it's there", I suppose I want to do something - "because I can". Now. Before, I couldn't. Now I can - so I'm going to!!

I have always wanted to do something really serious like climb Kilimanjaro. I'm further convinced of this by the November efforts of the UK Children in Need celebrities who did it for charity. However, I don't think I would be fit enough in time so that will have to wait for 2011! So, by way of preparation for perhaps an even bigger challenge next year, I have given a great deal of thought over the past few weeks, to what challenge I might take on in 2010. There were two general activities in the running - walking (hiking) or swimming. After being inspired by Robson Green's recent exploits on ITV, I thought about going for some 'wild' swimming adventure. I've done some outdoor swimming in the past when I entered a triathlon in my early twenties. However, that kind of thing would take some very serious training - and time - which I don't have in abundance. So I decided to focus my thinking efforts more on hiking.

In the UK there are a number of long distance footpaths. Many years ago I made serious plans to do the Pennine Way. This is about 320 miles and takes about 19-20 days following the spine of hills and low mountains that passes from the Peak District National Park in the south (central England) to the edge of the Scottish border in the north. However, I gave up on this at the time because I simply cannot take three weeks off work! But in my searching, I came across the 214 Lakeland Challenge - and this is more exciting.

The 214 Lakeland Challenge (also referred to as the Wainwright Challange) involves climbing to the peak of the 214 summits in the English Lake District described by Alfred Wainwright (pictured) in his famous seven volume pictorial guides. The summits vary from about 500 to 1000m and traverse all regions of the Lake District. The challenge is to complete all of these climbs - in one year. Well, since I love the Lake District, it's within a couple of hours drive from here, and the challenge can be completed over a period of time not requiring a huge amount of time off work, this is what I've decided to do! Think of all the steps and burned calories!!!

I've already bought the seven-volume Wainwright guides together with another guide that groups the walks into sensible units that can be completed over 36 separate trips. We already have the 1:25,000 OS Explorer maps that I will need. All I need now, are a couple of fleece jumpers because I no longer own any that fit! Oh, and the courage to actually begin! I think that I will 'officially' begin tomorrow - January 1st and my aim will be to complete by December 31st 2010. Who knows - I may even time my final ascent for December 31st and have a mountain celebration of New Year's Eve!

Wish me luck - I may need it!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Kerry (Kegs) and Mahhi

Hiya both! Thanks for your comments added to my last but one post - I had problems replying directly to those comments so have added my response here as a new post. It's probably ideal anyway because my sentiments apply to anyone struggling with weight loss:

And a very happy christmas to you too, and a new year filled with weight loss and self control - and may all your portions be small ones!

All the best to you in 2010. I truly hope that this time next year, we'll all be skinny and waif-like!!

Theresa x x  

Seasons greetings

Hello again! Happy Christmas! We've just returned from a Christmas week spent on holiday in Tenerife. We booked it all at the last minute and were lucky to get anything. But in the event, we had a fantastic time. We only just managed to get out of Manchester airport a week ago because it was snowing heavily at the time. The day before there had been awful delays because of the weather, but we were very lucky and only had an hours delay. Arriving in Tenerife we were faced with 20-25 degrees C most of the time. The last couple of days have been even hotter. We stayed in a lovely apartment at Puerta de la Cruz on the north coast. Although we had full self catering facilities we ate out every evening.

Probably the fact that we only found (or even looked for!) the beach on the last morning says something about the kind of people we are! However, we hired a car for the week and got around and saw lots of the island. Every day we went for a decent walk - I clocked up at least 15,000 steps per day and 25,000 on one day. I'm defintely feeling fitter already. The island is dominated by the volcano, Mount Teide, which stands at an incredible 3717m. We didn't get up to the top (you can get from 2200 to near the top by cable car) because high winds prevented the cable car from running. However, we did lots of high level walks with absolutely stunning views of modern and ancient lava flows, volcanic cones and deep chasms.

Needless to say, I did not count my calories while on holiday, but did my best to keep my appetite under control. I ate relatively small amounts for breakfast and lunch but tended to eat more in the afternoon and evening. Every afternoon, for instance, we bought an ice cream as 'reward' for walking in the heat. Eating out every evening, I tried to choose small meals. I always chose two courses (usually a starter and main course). However, a couple of times I ate so little of my main course I asked for a 'doggy bag' to take the rest away with me. By the end of the week I had switched to two starters. However, on the last evening my first starter was so big (a tuna and bean salad) that I took that away in a doggy bag and ate it for lunch on the way home yesterday!!

So all in all, a really fabulous Christmas. I'm not sure I want to do this every year because it's nice to spend time with family and enjoy the traditional atmosphere, sights and sounds of Christmas. But it was nice to do do something different, restful and get back to exercising! I'm now thinking about truly getting back to some proper, regular exercise. I also have it in mind that I'm going to take on a major physical challenge in 2010 - but more of that tomorrow....

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pre-band fears part 4: Eating cold food

Before I got banded, I read stories about bandits eating meals and taking an age over it. The thing that struck me, was the number of bandits who said that they commonly ended up eating cold food because it took so long to eat a meal that it got cold. Now, I've always hated eating cold food. A meal, for me, has to be served up piping hot to be truly enjoyable. The only times I have sent food back in a restaurant is when it hasn't been hot enough. So you can imagine, I was rather perturbed at the possibility of never again eating a hot meal.

So has my fear been realised? Well there's no doubt that my food does frequently end up cold by the time I've finished it. When I've eaten out with other people I have always finshed ages after everyone else. At home, my husband has usually finished his meal before I'm even one quarter of the way through mine! So, is this eating of cold food the problem that I envisaged it would be? Well the first thing to say is that my provider recommends that if you haven't finished a meal after 30 minutes, you should stop eating and throw any remains away. In theory at least, therefore, a meal will only get as cold as it can get after 30 minutes. The second thing to note is that a half eaten, 'gone-cold' meal can always be heated up in the microwave if necessary. But I have to say that my initial fears have been completely unfounded for another, unexpected reason:

The fact is, now, I eat much more slowly than I used to. This means that I taste and savour the tastes and textures of every mouthful. In turn, this means that I enjoy my food much more than I used to - whether it is hot or cold! Whether or not my food is hot cold is no longer the 'big issue' it used to be. Now, I think much more about the way that I eat, what I at, how much eat and the wonderful tastes if my food. This pre-band fear has turned out to be a non-entity!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Some advice to a potential bandit

After a previous post, a reader posted some questions to help her decide whether to go ahead and have gastric band surgery. I posted my answer as a 'comment' but I know some of you may not read the comments section - so here it is:

I'm pleased that you find the blog useful and helpful. I will try to answer each of your queries - but do remember that (a) this is only based on my experience - the experiences of others may vary, and (b) I'm not a doctor (well, not a medical one anyway!)!.

Loose skin: Yes, I have loose skin and it was one of my greatest fears before I got the band. However, it is much less of a problem than the health problems, humiliation and lack of fitness that go with being obese. I will need to have a tummy tuck and am considering other cosmetic surgery too. However, you are only 22 years old and your skin will be much more elastic than mine (I'm 45 years old). That means it is more likely to 'spring' back into position after you have lost weight. Therefore, you should have a very good chance of not getting excess skin after weight loss. You can do lots of exercise and muscle toning activities,and there are also lotions you can apply to help keep your skin taut. I'm not sure how much these are effectve. The main factors are how overweight you are, your age, and how rapidly you lose weight. You are young, you're not as heavy as I was when I started out, and people don't tend to lose weight too rapidly with the band (compared with a bypass, for example).

Diet: In theory, it shouldn't be necessary to 'diet' with the band. It is not about following a special diet; more about healthy eating, good nutrition and portion control. However, I find that my willpower is so weak that I need to count calories and keep a rigorous food diary to keep me on the straight and narrow most of the time. Most of my meals are healthy and portion-controlled. I also tend to have healthy snacks most of the time. However, I also slip up on a regular basis - yesterday, for example, I managed to fit in two bars of chocolate and a mince pie....!

Multivitamins: I take a daily multivitamin - just a common off-the-shelf variety from Tesco. I use a chewable one. I can swallow small tablets but prefer the chewable ones anyway - they are much like eating a sweet! As a bandit, you should find that after the initial liquids only phase, you can eat a fairly normal diet - albeit with much smaller portions. Therefore, it is not usually necesary to take any other supplements as it is if you have a bypass. I don't use any effervescent tablets but I could if I needed to - I am still a regular drinker of Diet Coke. As long as you pour it into a glass to allow the worst of the gas bubbles to escape, and drink it slowly and carefully, - I've never had any real problem.

Thank you for your kind words. I do hope that your surgery goes well. Do make sure that you get a good aftercare package that includes follow-up appointments, fills and an emergency number just in case you need it. I've never needed to use the emergency number given me - but it's a great comfort knowing that there are people available should anything go wrong. I've just read about a lady who had her op done in Belgium and her surgeon os only over in the UK once a month. She urgently needs a de-fill but has to wait a month for it - I, and some other bandits have advised her to get a de-fill from somewhere else and not wait. So - make sure you get a good aftercare package included with your surgery!!

All the best, Trees x

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Pre-band fears part 3: Being called a cheat!

I suppose it was the 'outing' of Fern Britton that did it - she was 'found out' with the gastric band and called a cheat in the British media. I suppose that in the early days of the band I didn't know enough about how it would work so I think a part of me believed that there was an element of cheating involved. Of course now I know different. I know from experience that if I want to, I can eat pretty much anything. I can eat all of the unhealthy foods that I used to be able to eat. I can eat chocolate in volume and binge on the stuff almost as easily as I used to. I know that other famous celebrities gave had their band removed because they gained weight eating loads of chocolate! I know from months of hard work that band success means careful calorie counting, rigorous maintenance of a food diary, tonnes of exercise and constantly making good, nutritional food choices. It means sticking to a whole heap of rules, like chewing everything to death, eating slowly, not getting distracted while eating, using small utensils, eating off a side plate, practising environmental control and balancing proteins, carbs and veggies. It also requires sticking to the hardest rule of all, which is not to drink for at least one hour after eating!!

Because I was uncertain about how the band was going to work, I was careful early on not to tell anyone except my husband, that I had a band. Over time, and as I've learned more about what is involved in making the band work for me, I've become more relaxed about telling people. I guess I feel more confident that I am not a cheat! I feel I can explain to people properly how the band works and I can justify my reasons for having one. Some would say why do I need to justify anything to anybody - but that's just the way I am!

About six weeks after getting banded I told my immediate family. Since then, I've told several close colleagues and friends. Even just today, I told my office mate (as he was stuffing his face with a muffin!). Whereas many months ago I couldn't really see myself telling anybody, now I firmly believe that I will probably eventually tell everybody! I think that basically I'm just a coward, and am scared of telling people in case it doesn't work. That's why I expect I will eventually 'out' to everyone only once I reach my target!! I said I was a coward!

So, as far as people calling me a cheat is concerned - I no longer have that fear. At the end of the day, it's my body, my money and my health. As is plainly clear for anyone who knows me to see, the band has done wonders for me and it clearly does work. If having something that only does 30% of the work is being a cheat - then I confess to being one. But I jest. I am not a cheat, I don't feel a cheat, and anyone who thinks I am one is plain and simple WRONG! There.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Pre-band fears part 2: Being sick

Before I got banded I'd read and heard so much about bandits being sick that it really began to worry me. I got the impression, from various forums and web sites, that vomiting was a normal everyday part of life being a bandit. I read stories about people throwing up while they were eating out - much to everyone's embarrassment. I'd also read about people who more or less threw up every time they ate. But then, to add to my confusion, I read advice and guidance from bariatric surgeons and doctors saying that being sick was not a normal everyday occurrence for bandits - or at least that it shouldn't be. So, I decided to plough on ahead with surgery anyway and deal with vomiting if, and when, the time came.

Over a year on, what has the reality been? Well (and I advise you to read this before you eat if you've got a weak stomach!), first, there are three different kinds of vomiting with the band:

1. The 'slime'
2. Regurgitation
3. Vomiting - proper

I'm going to break with tradition and deal with these in reverse order.

3. Vomiting: We've all done this, whether from over-eating or too much of the amber nectar! This is when we bring up partially or fully digested food from the stomach. For bandits - this means the main, lower stomach. In the normal run of things, this shouldn't ever happen to a bandit purely from eating too fast etc because the lower stomach has much greater capacity than the upper pouch. However, vomiting could result from a tummy bug or other illness. Proper vomiting is dangerous for bandits because 'it' has to come up through the stoma created by the band, past the pouch and into the oesophagus. If the band is quite tight, forcing partially digested food past at a great rate of knots can cause band slippage. This is why if you ever go to a country where tummy bugs are likely, always take a supply of anti-sickness medication with you. Personally, I have not vomited at all since having the band.

2. Regurgitation: This is bringing back undigested food from the upper pouch. This occurs if we eat too fast, too much, without chewing enough, and sometimes with particular types of food. It can also occur if you drink after eating. This is the type of 'vomiting' that most bandits are referring to. Regurgitation is unpleasant, to say the least, and if it happens too often, can begin to cause damage to the oesophagal wall. This is because of the acids that accompany food digestion which can attack the walls of the oesophagus, and also because of mechanical damage. It's best to avoid regurgitation! Although brought on by not sticking to the basic rules of eating slowly, chewing well and taking small mouthfuls - it is much more likely to happen if the band is too tight. So, if it's happening to you on a regular basis and you are sure you're sticking to the rules (and not drinking after eating) you should get your band checked out - it could be too tight. It is a misnomer to think that a 'too tight' band is a good thing because you will lose weight more quickly - you may also cause permanent damage to your oesophagus and there are a variety of other complications too, some of which require surgical intervention and the removal of the band. So it's not worth it. My personal experience is that since being banded I have regurgitated three times. The first time was when I got angry with my iPhone because it was misbehaving(!), and in my anger I scoffed down two thirds of an iced bun before I remembered I had a band.....! By then it was too late and I had a very unpleasant 20 minutes leant over the sink. The second and third times both happened at work while eating my lunch and working at the same time. In other words, I got distracted and ate too big a mouthful without chewing properly. Mia culpa.

1. The 'slime': This happens - a bit like regurgitation - when you eat too much without chewing properly. Food gets 'stuck' in the pouch, unable to get through the stoma because some less well chewed food is blocking the way. It can also happen if you drink after eating - the liquid can't get through the stoma because the food you ate, nicely sitting in the pouch and making you feel full, is blocking the way. So, the body produces what seems like tonnes of saliva to lubricate the oesophagus and pouch to try and remove the blockage. Usually, this does eventually work and you get a real sense of relief when the blockage clears. But meanwhile, your body is producing loads of this saliva and until the downwards blockage is cleared it has to go somewhere - upwards! The slime (as most bandits call it - I'm sure there's a correct technical term for it somewhere!) builds up gradually. You'll be eating something and start to feel an unusual heaviness around the breastbone (where the band is). Then you'll feel gurgling and things happening in your gullet, and then in your throat. Then you'll notice that your mouth is filling with saliva, and it's no good trying to swallow it because your mouth just fills up again. At the point when I notice the gurgling sensation, I know I've just got time to make it to the toilets at work - as long as no-one tries to stop me or talk to me on the way. Once, while rushing to the loo at work, my mouth full of saliva to bursting point, I passed a colleague in the corridor. Inevitably, he said "hello" and I just grunted. I often wonder what he thought.... Anyway, persaonally I went through two phases of doing lots of sliming - both were when my band was too tight and both times I ended up having an aspiration (de-fill). Since then, I still occasionally get the slime - but it's always when I've eaten too quickly, not chewed, or drunk after eating.

So, if you chew well, eat slowly, eat small portions, don't drink after eating and take anti-sickness tablets with you when you go abroad, you need never have any fear of vomiting with the band! On a more serious note, if you're already a bandit and regularly regurgitate or vomit, there's something wrong - either with your eating behaviour or with the band. Get it checked out. Vomiting, of any kind, is NOT a normal part of everyday life post gastric band surgery - and don't let anyone tell you that it is.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Pre-band fears part 1: Eating out

I promised a couple of weeks ago that I was going to post a few articles exploring some of the concerns I had before I got banded - and how those things have panned out. Funny, when I look back at those concerns, none of them were about the surgery itself, any medical issues or worries about complications etc. Here's some of the things that occupied my anxious thoughts at the time:

1. Eating out
2. Being sick
3. People calling me a cheat
4. Eating cold food
5. Not being able to eat enough when I need extra energy (like when on a long hike)

I might think of some more as I work through them. So, here's for the first one - eating out:

A couple of days before surgery I went through a 'cold feet' phase of asking myself was I really doing the right thing? I'd somehow got it into my head that never again, would I be able to eat out. I'd never be able to go out for a meal with my family again and I probably wouldn't even be able to join colleagues eating lunch in the staff canteen! I'm not sure exactly where I got these ideas from, perhaps from the consultant I saw who said I wouldn't be able to eat a 3-course meal again and I'd have to order a starter instead of a main course.

So what has the reality been? Well the first thing to say to any would-be bandits out there, is DON'T PANIC! You WILL be able to eat out! I don't eat out on a regular basis but have eaten out with friends and family groups on a number of occasions since being banded. I guess when I eat out I don't attempt to stick to all of the usual rules, but neither do I completely 'blow it' by stuffing myself silly. A happy medium then, is what I aim for. Typically, I would have a small starter (usually soup but no bread) to begin with. Soup goes down nice and easy so doesn't make me feel full. Then I usually choose a starter for my main course. I did try a main meal a couple of times but they were just too big. I felt bad at leaving so much food and attempted to eat more than was comfortable. So, a starter as a main course suits me fine. A typical starter would be Thai fish cakes, tuna salad, salmon. I tend to avoid 'mixed' food like curry, bolognaise etc because they have lots of unknown fats in the sauces. In the past, I ALWAYS had dessert. Nowadays, my brain wants dessert but my stomach doesn't! I also like to have a sweet taste in my mouth at the end of a meal. So, my solution has been to order a dessert to share with my husband. He's quite a fast eater and I'm so slow, so that he ends up eating 75% of it - which is fine!

So that's what I eat. Now what about the eating process itself? Well, I was never a particularly fast eater before, but now you can bet your last dollar that I will be the last to finish every course! This has been slightly embarrassing at times because people who don't know about my band obviously wonder why on earth I'm such a slow eater. However, I just pass it off with a comment like 'sorry I'm a slow eater' or 'sorry - I've been talking too much'. I also have to be doubly careful not to eat or swallow too big mouthfuls in case I end up getting hiccups, slime or worse. I don't suffer too much with any of these but am more likely to if distracted. Therefore, when I eat out I am particularly careful to focus on the eating process and avoid any mishaps.

I've seen a number of info-bites from bariatric surgeons and associates commenting on eating and drinking while eating out. Most have said that bandits should not try to stick rigidly to separating eating and drinking while out. In fact I again, try to go for a happy medium. On the one hand, it's usually impractical to avoid drinking when you're put for a meal. I generally try to swig down as much fluid as I can before the meal begins, and limit my intake afterwards. On the other hand, however, I have to be careful that drinking after I've eaten doesn't bring on an attack of the slime. If there's food sitting my pouch and I have a drink, one of two things can happen. Either the fluid washes the food through (no problem there then), or it gets blocked, turns the food into liquid mush which only has one way out - UP!! DefinItely to be avoided.

So is it possible to eat out when you have a band? Absolutely yes. However, if you have good restriction you won't be able to eat a normal three meals. You'll also have to eat slowly and be careful not to get distracted. In the weeks coming up to Christmas I have several celebratory meals coming up. I'm looking forward to them every bit as much as I would have before being banded. Looking back to my pre-band fears I realise they were largely unfounded. While what and how I eat are slightly different to what they once were, I can still go out and fully enjoy the company of family and friends. I guess that's it really - the emphasis is more on enjoyment and company and less on food. That's the band for you!

Friday, December 4, 2009

The goodness goes on...

Wow! Not sure what is happening. Two more excellent days where my eating has been totally under control, I've felt real restriction and nit been hungry or craved food at all! Today, for example, I had orange juice and Actimel drink followed by banana and a small cereal bar for breakfast (200 calories). For lunch I had a pre-prepared salmon (200 calories), bulgar wheat and vegetable snack pot. This evening I prepared two veggie sausages, boiled potato and sprouts (315 calories). So far I've eaten about 35% of it and I'm stuffed!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Having a better day - why?

I've had quite a good couple of days. On Sunday I set aside time to do some stepping, light weights training and stretching. I felt so much better afterwards and it gave me a mental lift. Yesterday was a very long, hard day at work but I somehow managed to largely stick to healthy eating. Today has been a bit more relaxed and I've eaten quite healthily today. I ate raspberries, Greek yoghurt and chopped banana for breakfast. It was midday before I was able to eat it and it was slow going. But it left me feeling quite full. For late lunch I ate a cheese sandwich with a tin of Weight Watchers mushroom soup. I got peckish early evening (nothing new there then!) and had a small cereal bar. Then this evening I ate a piece of fresh trout fillet, stuffed pasta and mixed veg (butternut squash, courgette and spinach). I bought the trout Monday, thinking it was salmon! Still, it tasted delish and was lower in fat than the salmon!

I guess today has been better for three reasons:

1. I worked at home so (a) wasn't tempted by the chocolate vending machine at work and (b) was able to take much more control over the timing of meals.
2. I was feeling a bit more positive after a weekend that included some exercise.
3. I started the day a bit later (10am instead of 5.30am) and so ate my evening meal later. I am writing this at 10.30pm, about to go to bed and feeling nicely full!

So can I carry any of this forward to give me continued success? Well I certainly can't work at home every day (chance would be a fine thing!). I could try to make sure I don't have any loose change so I can't use the vending machine. I could also eat my breakfast later in the day (I don't usually feel hungry in the morning anyway) - or split breakfast and have some a bit later. But I honestly think the thing most likely to work for me us making time to do some exercise, walk, go to the gym, swim etc. Because whenever I do physical activity I get a psychological boost and feel so much better physically. I am building up a renewed resolve to put exercise higher up my priority list.

Keep your fingers crossed for me please!