I was invited recently to answer some questions regarding my experience with the lapband for my doctor's office. I'm told my response will be included in a newsletter type format handed out to new patients and to those struggling.
I'm glad to help and this might actually also help me to stay on track. If I'm held up as an example, it puts a little bit of pressure on me (the good kind) to maintain my loss.
Here's the questions and my answers. I gave my nurse (who has become a friend over the past 4 years) permission to edit for length and clarity, so what the patients actually receive may be a little different.
Which surgery & how long ago
AGB (Adjustable Gastric Banding) on March 9, 2009. 4 years ago.
Why did I choose to have bariatric surgery
I had been considering it for several years, but hesitant as my insurance situation is such that I am basically self pay. I felt really bad about needing to spend money on me for surgery, when losing weight and keeping it off is something I felt I should be able to do myself. I didn't feel worthy. I also did not know anyone who had had bariatric surgery, so it was a scary thought.
June of 2007 I had an appt with another doctor, and it so happened that they were a patient of Dr. B. and had been banded and were very happy with their results and recommended that I look into it. I started the process of the initial group meeting where Dr. B describes the different surgeries and then meets with everyone individually.
Not long after this initial meeting, it was discovered that I had very early cancer. Banding was put on the back burner while I had surgery and recovered physically and emotionally. Fortunately the cancer was found so early that surgery was the only treatment needed.
While cancer is a horrid thing, in my case, it had one fortunate outcome. The cancer surgery met my deductible so that my insurance covered my banding. So, it took me almost 2 years to get banded, but I finally got it done. Physically, I could've had it done earlier, but I needed time to recover emotionally from my cancer.
And lastly, I was beginning to get so large I would only be able to buy clothing via mailorder. Maybe this should be the first reason, as reaching this point really made me think. I'm one of the world's best at ignoring a problem.. when the largest clothing size in Catherine's is on the verge of being too small, that's hard to ignore.
How much weight have I lost since beginning of process
I believe at pre-op I was 385, day of surgery 383. Last check up at Dr. B's I was 168. I've been as low as 155, but that was during training for a half marathon. I'd like to settle around 160 to 165 eventually. Which is still overweight for my height by the BMI, but I don't think the BMI should be the only gauge of a healthy weight.
I probably have some poundage in extra skin, that if I ever decide to have reconstructive surgery, would get me closer to my goal.
What has been the hardest part after the surgery
I really don't know how to answer this question, there are many things that are a challenge.. but hard? Being SMO (super morbidly obese) was hard. While this change in my life isn't a cake-walk, things are so much better in so many ways, I can't think of things as "hard". There's a quote I run across every now and then "Exercise is hard, Being Overweight is hard, Choose your hard". Life is hard. It just is.. deal with it.
That being said...things that were challenging were
1) remembering to take vitamins every.single.day.
2) learning new ways to prepare our favorite foods, making them healthier.
2a) giving up bread, potatoes, rice, pasta was hard initially, but it got easier.
3) getting myself up and out the door to walk..overcoming the inertia was hard.
4) Wanting to eat more because it tastes so dang good.. but I’m full. I still struggle with this. and
4a) missing the lower abdominal feeling full. REALLY miss that.
What is the best feeling of accomplishment since surgery
There are many, but the one I am proudest of is completing a half marathon. I took the whole 3 1/2 hours allowed, plus 1 extra minute, but I did it. I limped for a week afterwards and thought never again.. but I'm kinda thinking about another one now.
I can alllllmost touch my toes now, and I've NEVER been able to do that, even as a child. I can do a 45 minute spin class.
I can physically out perform younger family members.
I absolutely LOVE the fact that I am too small to shop at stores that cater to obese women now.
My daughter and I can wear the same size jeans. I can almost get into a size 11 that she wore in high school or maybe junior high. I could get into them if I get the plastic surgery I need, but am frightened of.
Best advice for those considering surgery or those getting discouraged afterwards.
Make sure you are ready not only physically, but emotionally too.
Trust your surgery (and surgeon) to work. I remember early out thinking "why in the world didn't I chose RnY (Sleeves were not offered by Dr. B in 2009)", fretting and regretting. I finally gave myself a little peptalk .. "Lisa, uou chose banding for several reasons that were significant for you. It's done now, give the surgery a chance to work. Follow the guidelines you were given as best you can and see where it takes you. If it doesn't work, then we can regroup and discuss doing something else."
Be patient, we didn't get obese overnight, we won't lose overnight either. Stalls and plateaus happen. Take your measurements early on for a baseline. Take them again and compare to the original numbers during the times that the scales are not responding the way you would like. I had to do this when my loss slowed down. I measured once a month. It helped to see that although the scale wasn’t changing, my inches were.
Keep a food journal. It can be on paper, on the computer or on your phone, but it can't be just in your head. People who write down what they eat are much more successful in weight control. ABC (all bites count) and "if you bite it, write it". Yes, it can be a pain.. but so worth it.
Find a support group either in person or online. I didn't attend the support group offered by Dr. B's office for a while because of them being at night and I didn't like driving at night alone ( My husband cannot make it and I don't have any family close). I found support at SmartBandsters on yahoo groups. It was very helpful. I still don't like driving at night, but I have become more comfortable and now attend almost monthly at Dr. B's. But GET SUPPORT somewhere.
Move your body. The band can only reduce your appetite (once you get to the correct fill level for you). It really helps to become more active. Start where you are, don’t expect to run a marathon or lift a ton of weight right off the bat. At 385 lbs, I was doing good to walk down my driveway to my mailbox and back. The next day, I went to the mailbox and past it to the stump in my neighbors yard (an extra 10 steps or so). Third day, past the stump to the fence corner.. and so on. Every day bump it up just a little. Try to park far away as is safe from the store you're going into. When grocery shopping, take your own groceries out and return the buggy to the store. If you're allowed a clothesline, hang out your own clothes. Look for ways to make everyday activities less efficient so that you burn more calories.
Surround yourself with supportive people. You may find that some friends will be saboteurs, either because they miss their eating buddy or they're jealous or some other reason. If they can't be supportive, you may have to drop them or see them less often. Be aware that this can happen so that it doesn't blindside you.
Talk kindly to yourself. Don’t call yourself names. Treat yourself as you would treat your dearest friend.
If you make a bad choice and eat too much of something or make the wrong choice, don’t wait till tomorrow to fix it. You can start making better choices right away.
And this may seem counter-intuitive, but don't deprive yourself of every good tasting food. I find if I make things absolutely off-limits, I will eventually buy the item and go off the deep end and eat way too much of whatever it is. If you love potato chips, once in a great while allow yourself a few. Same thing with ice cream, chocolate or whatever. I'm not advocating keeping a huge amount in the house, but a few bites of a "bad food" now and then helps. It strengthens me to stay with my lean and green foods, if I know that I can have a tiny indulgence now and then. However.. if I can't stop with 3 bites or a single serving (100 calories or less) of the "bad food" then it is off my list of "rarely allowed foods" and put on the "never-never" list.
I could've gone on and on, but thought that was enough. I almost hesitate to make this public as I don't want to come off as perfect or as the guru of lapbanding. I've been very fortunate to have an excellent surgeon and wonderful nurses and a very supportive family and lots of supportive friends.
The gym I attend has also been wonderful and a big part of my success. I started there after losing the first 100lbs by walking and they've been nothing but encouraging. I was a bit scared to go at first (I hide my fear behind being outgoing, talking too much. Others are often surprised when I admit that I was scared at certain points or things), but ploughed through my fear and it turned out great.