Saturday, August 20, 2011

It's been a while...

Hello again!

I've been a very bad blogger. Let's not dwell on how long it's been since I've written anything and get right to the 'post at hand.'  Things have been going well. I am down over 50 pounds and will (hopefully) soon reach a major milestone - finally being under 300 pounds. There are no health benefits specific to this particular accomplishment, but the psychological implications can not be overstated. I honestly do not remember the last time I weighed less than 300 pounds. I was in the 200s in high school and college, so it had to be some time between starting graduate school and moving to Kentucky, which covers about 15 years. But since I have trouble remembering what I had for breakfast, I'm not that surprised. On the subject of breakfast, Lynne's Paradise Cafe has some *amazing* french toast. Not that I can eat french toast for the most part. Which leads me to the other major news since my last post - I finally have real restriction. It makes a world of difference. I thought I had this 'eating with a band' thing figured out. Ha! I was about as close on that one as I was on my last game of darts. I'm still not allowed back in that place.  So, now I can't eat things like chicken (most all of the time), many breads (especially bagels), and several other random things, like brussel sprouts, and more recently pork loin. However, I seem to have no problem with cupcakes and fried green tomatoes. This could be an issue. 

With this new level of restriction I have made two new friends: papaya enzyme and to-go boxes.  Anyone with a band - learn to love to-go boxes. Do it now. Oh, and tapas places. If you can't make friends with the to-go box, you must befriend your local tapas places. Many people will sing the praises of the children's menu. Children's menus can be great - if you want to eat like a child. If I want pb&j or a grilled cheese sandwhich, I'll make my own - it will probably taste better anyway (there are certain exceptions to this rule, such as Melt in Cleveland, but what they make you will not find on any kiddie menu).  So, find your local tapas places and start a bromance with the to-go box. Oh, and appetizer and small plate menus. Unless you eat at places like Chili's or Applebee's or Olive Garden (which is a whole other issue entirely, and you should just stop doing it. Seriously. Stop it.) The appetizers at most of these places can be worse than the entrees. It's better to avoid them entirely (not just the appetizers, just avoid the entire the restaurant). Trust me - go spend the same amount of money eating much less food off of a much better menu. Think of the band as a gift - the gift of not eating crap food. Just because you are eating less does not mean you do not deserve to eat well. So, tapas and to-go boxes (However, if you need a to-go box *at* the tapas place, your band might be too tight, lol).

An off topic note:  I'm am about to get on a bit of a soap box, please do not be offended.  Here goes...

I appreciate the whole 'pink' thing. I know many people who have battled breast cancer, with varying results. I am overjoyed that people are aware of breast cancer and that funds are being raised for research and support almost everywhere one looks. I get it - we need to fight breast cancer.  But...and you knew there was going to be a But...

What about all the other cancers and cancer survivors out there?  Where are their fund raisers, their 5K runs, their cookie sales, their candy bars and soup cans? Their sneakers and their 'pink-outs'?  I know people who have fought, again with varying levels of success, blood cancers, hodgkin's disease, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, and many other equally awful diseases. Who is fighting for them?  What color ribbon should they wear? What color ribbon should *I* wear? I am a sarcoma survivor and I was just diagnosed with skin cancer.  One person, two different cancers, no ribbons. Two different cancers, and I still can't participate in the Survivor's Walk at the Kentucky Oaks because I don't/didn't have the *right kind* of cancer. For some reason, that just rubs me the wring way. I just had to get that off my chest. I will get off my soap now. Thank you for reading.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Of Rice and Men...

So, on Tuesday I had my band filled for the first time. It was an interesting experience. I went to my surgeon’s office, checked in, got weighed (down 4 pounds since last appointment!), and waited for the doc. Once he arrived, he got me set up on the table and stared looking for my port. He managed to locate it, so we did not have to go down to radiology and use the x-ray machine to find it. So I’m lying on the table flat on my back and the doctor tells me ‘now, I need you to put your legs straight out and raise them about six inches off the table.’  Pardon? I should mention here that I have a bad back. An epically bad back. Like two herniated disks and arthritis bad. I don’t medicate it because if I took enough so that I could function normally, I would not actually be able to feed myself. The last time in the past year that I noticed no pain in my back was the first two days after surgery. Unfortunately, I also didn’t notice if I was dressed at the time, so whatever they gave me at the hospital is not really a viable daily option.  Anyway, after showing the doctor that I could only raise one leg at a time, and that it had taken three months of PT to get to that point, we tried a few other positions and finally found one that worked. He added 3cc of saline to the band, and sent me on my way. I was on liquids for 24-48 hours. I did feel some restriction the first day, but I’m pretty sure I will need another fill, considering how much sashimi I was able to eat last night. Sashimi is very good for me, but I should not have been able to eat the better part of a sashimi special, plus a pair of uni nigiri, and not feel like my gut was in imminent danger of exploding out of my chest and doing a little alien dance across the table, or at least feeling really, really full. 

This brings me to a favorite subject of mine: Sushi.  I love Sushi. A lot. Like, a lot, a lot.  The first thing I asked for once I was off liquids after surgery was Uni. Not ice cream, not a hamburger, but sea urchin roe. My husband, wonderful man that he is, actually went and got me some. So my first solid meal after surgery consisted of raw fish and miso soup. I was in heaven. Now, I have made the switch from actual sushi (raw fish and vinegared rice) to sashimi (raw fish and no rice). The rice, while wonderfully delicious, is full of carbs and prone to getting stuck in one’s band. Since I am morally opposed to things getting stuck, I will avoid the rice. I have always been more of a fan of sashimi and nigiri then of fancy rolls, so this is not a huge sacrifice for me. If you must have your volcano rolls, know that they can cause problems going down, not to mention that they have a ton of calories and carbs due to the rice, and mayo based sauces used in a lot of them. Many rolls are also deep fried, and some even have cream cheese in them. So, besides being about as traditionally Japanese as a bootleg Hello Kitty waffle maker, they are also yummy little fat bombs.
In review, today’s lesson is:  going out for Sushi is fun and can be very good for you. However, choose sashimi and miso soup over deep fried rolls and shrimp shumai.  Your band will love you for it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Yo, Yo, Yogurt!

Bandsters know that yogurt can be one of your best friends. It is high in protein and can be very low in fat, plus it’s soft, which is very important right after surgery or after a fill. I have a new favorite variety. I had been eating a lot of the Greek style non-fat strained yogurt. However, the last few times I’ve been shopping at WF, I have picked up ‘Siggi’s’ brand Icelandic style skyr. It seems to be the same concept as the Greek style – very thick, no fat, lots of protein.  However, Siggi’s has much better flavor, in my opinion. So far, I have tried the orange and ginger, blueberry, and pomegranate and passion fruit. The Pom and Passion fruit is too tart for me. If you like your yogurt to make your lips pucker, this is for you. The first time I tried it was in my office at work, and my assistant actually poked her head in and asked if I was ok after I took the first bite. Apparently, the ‘daaammmmnnnn’ that I let out upon eating was a little more audible than I had expected.  The blueberry is quite yummy. My favorite by far, though, is the orange and ginger. The flavor is bold, without being overpowering. There are chunks of ginger – so be carful with this one right after surgery. You will want to strain this one, or stick to something without chunks, like the pom and passion fruit.  Unless you like the pain of something getting stuck. If so, eat away! This stuff isn’t cheap, running at about $2.29 for a 6 ounce cup. However, I think it is worth the price since I actually eat it, rather than letting it go bad in the fridge. Plus, it is hormone free, and made from milk from grass fed cows. There is no aspartame, sucralose, gelatin, artificial colorings, preservatives, or high fructose corn syrup. The ingredients are:

Pasteurized skim milk
Agave nectar
Candied ginger
Orange extract
Live active cultures
Vegetable Rennet

And for those interested, the Live Cultures are:

B. Lactis
L. Acidophilus
L. Delbtueckii Subsp. Bulgaricus
L Delbrueckii Subsp. Lactis
S. Thermophilus

The average serving has 120 calories, 12 carbs, and 16 grams of protein.

If you like yogurt, or are having trouble finding yogurt you like, I highly recommend trying Siggi’s, it well worth the effort and price.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

On Whole Foods

Yesterday's outing involved one of my favorite things. Every week or two my husband and I make the 30 mile trek to Whole Foods up in Louisville. I think WF might be my natural environment. For my friends who have never (gasp!) been to a Whole Foods, it's like Nordstrom's, except it sells food. For the Anchorage folks out there, think of a gigantic, more uppity version of City Market (yes, that's what I said).  I fancy myself a food snob, and for food snobs, WF is the Mother Ship. I should mention that I try to eat local as much as possible. There are a slew of farmer's markets around here in the warmer months. But since it is now January, I have to get my groceries somewhere. There is also a Kroger right here in my town, and I shop there for basics and last minute items. They also have a fairly good organic section that is helpful in a pinch. I try to eat organic as much as is reasonable for my wallet because my naturopath told me the hormones used in most meat and dairy products can promote tumor growth. As a cancer survivor, you probably understand why I'm not much into tumor growth.
Now, with my new band, shopping for food has become a bit of an adventure. I have to avoid carbs as much as possible, especially breads and other baked goods, plus pasta and rice. This is not just because of the carb content, but also because they can easily get 'stuck' in the small passage between my tiny upper stomach and my more normal sized lower stomach - oh great, now my insides resemble an ungulate as much as my outsides, nice. Let me just say, when something gets stuck, it hurts. A lot. Trust me that I won't be pushing that rule much at all, if ever. Anyway, the aisles at WF are conveniently labeled with signs such as "You Can Eat This" and "Don't Come Down Here, It Will Make You Cry."  I listen to those signs. If you are trying to avoid carbs, do not go down the pasta aisle. Avoid the chips and crackers aisle. Run from the cookie aisle.  It works. Really. I distract myself at the fish and meat counters. The cheese counter is my special place, where I can sample and explore at will. My current favorite is a semi-hard cheese called parrano. It's hard to describe, but I love, love, love it. It helped me through my first two weeks when I was subsisting on scrambled eggs. Now, these were amazing eggs from a local farmer, but they are still just scrambled eggs. A little parrano grated on top was enough to get me through.

Sunday was shaping up to be another wonderful outing amongst 'my people' until we were ready to head to the checkout counter. I had avoided getting a beer to sip on while we shopped. I did not put any ice cream or yukon gold potatoes in my cart. But I miscalculated. Instead of carefully considering my path to the checkout line, I put it on auto pilot and took off on the path of least resistance. It was far too late before I remembered, to my horror, that this path took me straight through, dear god!, the bakery department. I stopped dead in my tracks. I was face to face with a tower of cupcakes and pound cake. Seriously, it was a 5 foot tall display table filled with mini cupcakes and pumpkin pound cake. Are you kidding me? I started to cry. My dear husband was able to save me before I became a sniveling ball of sobbing fat girl on the floor, but it was close. Now, this will not keep me from going back to Whole Foods, but it will make me rethink my path to the checkout counter after I have collected my brussel sprouts with red onions from the prepared foods counter.

The lessons here...avoid the areas of the grocery store that could tempt you to stray. If you can't avoid them, take someone with you to pull you back from the precipice of certain death. If you happen to be one of those people who has no problem walking through the bakery section, please send me some of that will power, because, well, I've never met a tiramisu I didn't want to hide in a closet with and eat with my hands.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Complete History of My Life to This Point (Abridged)

You may ask yourself, how did I get here?  I was born in 1974, the second of three children. I have always been heavy. I have never been particularly fond of exercise. When I was made to go to soccer practice or play kickball with the neighborhood kids, what I really wanted to be doing was reading National Geographic or the encyclopedia. Did I mention that I am a bit of a nerd?  My mother had me in 'nutritional counseling' before I reached high school. She often told me I was pretty, but I would be so much prettier if I could just lose some weight. Now, I wasn't really 'fat' at this point, but I was usually the biggest kid in the room. In grade school, I played soccer and basketball, and was on the swimming and cheerleading teams. In high school I played volleyball my freshman year, but was relegated to manager my sophomore year after the coach called me into his office and told me I was too fat to play on his team. My sister and brother were both elite level athletes in high school. I just wanted to be in the spring musical. I wanted to go to theatre camp. I was sent to volleyball camp. That really worked out, didn't it?

Don't get me wrong. In the grand scheme of things, I had a wonderful childhood. My parents are amazing people and I have a great relationship with them, aside from the weight issue. The kids in the neighborhood, most of whom I am still good friends with, never made an issue of my weight. I can only remember two instances of being teased at school, once in grade school, once in high school. By the time I went to college, it was kind of a non issue for anyone but my parents. In graduate school I managed to take off a fair amount of weight, even with the binge drinking and diet of cheap chinese and chicken wings.

It wasn't until I moved to Alaska that I really started packing on the pounds. After twelve years of life in the Last Frontier I had ballooned to my highest weight, much closer to 400 than any two people should be. I thought about having surgery while I was up there, but my insurance had limited coverage for bariatric procedures. Plus, I was diagnosed with cancer in 2004 and wanted to give myself five years to make sure I was 'cured' before I looked at any more life changing surgeries.  It was not until I rather unexpectedly moved to semi-rural Kentucky that I finally started looking into getting 'banded' in a serious way. I started the process of getting insurance approval in October of 2009 and was finally 'banded' on December 8, 2010.

Friday, January 7, 2011


Hello!  Welcome to my home for random thoughts on food, life, and living with a 'lap band'.

A few housekeeping items:
  • I do not actually have a 'Lap Band'. I have a 'Realize Band'. 'Lap Band' and 'Realize Band' are brand names, like 'Kleenex' and 'Puffs'. I will often use the term 'lap band' since it is much more recognized by the general public, and it is much easier to type.
  • This blog is NOT about how the cheat or work around the band. It is meant to be a chronicle of my efforts to indulge my 'foodie' lifestyle while working within the restrictions of my band (and therefore losing weight). I also hope to provide a guide for how you can do this, too. Because everyone wants to be a foodie, right?
Now that I have that out of the way, let me introduce myself. I am a 36 year old trapped in what feels like an 80 year old's body. Plus, I'm fat. But I'm working on that.  I am also an unabashed foodie. I love to eat. I love to eat good food. I love to share good food with my friends. This has worked very well for me, in the sense that I have many good friends and have had many amazing meals, not so much in that my current profile more closely resembles that of Alfred Hitchcock than Bettie Page. But as I mentioned before, I'm working on that. It is that desire to look more like a Ziegfeld Girl and less like a Zeppelin that brings me to this moment in time.