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Friday, June 30, 2006

Peach Cobbler Recipe

I believe I have perfected my cobbler recipe. Beau says it's a keeper...we'll see what his parents say when I serve it for dessert tomorrow. I would rather use Nature's Sweet instead of Splenda, but since I didn't have any, this is what I went with:

Tonya' s version of Grandma's Peach Cobbler
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup Splenda
3/4 cup milk
3 cups peeled and sliced fresh peaches, with their juices
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Put the butter in a 9x13-inch Pyrex baking dish and put the dish in the preheating oven. While the butter is melting, mix up the batter by combining the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and milk.
When the butter is completely melted, remove the pan and pour the batter into the melted butter. Then, carefully spoon the peaches and juice evenly over the batter. Return dish to the oven and bake for 45 minutes to an hour.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Settling in

Just got in from the American Society of Bariatric Surgeons' Annual Convention in San Francisco.
"Information Overload" are the two best words to describe how I feel right now, but I learned some amazing information. I learned about new procedures in the field of bariatrics, saw various vitamin and protein supplements.
I saw Carnie Wilson! She's absolutely beautiful. Celebrity Fit Club must have been a success for her, because she's now at her goal weight.
I'll report more over the next several days.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Monday, June 26, 2006

Samples-o-rama

I've been busy trying all of the yummy samples I picked up at Saturday's OH seminar.

Some quick notes:

Body Choice Premium High Protein Pudding
I was not impressed by this protein pudding. First, I don't consider 14 grams of protein to be that high. I tried the chocolate flavor, and it was gelatinous and a bit grainy. There was a distinct protein aftertaste, and I didn't like the feeling on my tongue after eating it. Personally, I much prefer Snack & Slim pudding, which provides a creamy 20 grams of protein in a 5 oz. serving and has no icky aftertaste.

Bariatric Advantage Vitamins
BA has reformulated its vitamins, which means fewer are necessary each day. The taste of the chewables is just as good as before, except the flavor of the iron has improved dramatically (I love the new passion fruit flavor).

Achiev One
As I've said before, my pouch can't handle the coffee in these 20-gram protein mocha-style drinks. But my husband thoroughly enjoyed the hazelnut version I brought back with me. He said it's even better than Starbucks Frappucinos.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

ASBS Annual Convention

The American Society of Bariatric Surgeons is gathering in San Francisco this week for its national convention. The convention includes lots of classes for surgeons to learn new surgical techniques as well as other things related to bariatrics. But the highlight of the event is the exhibitors trade show that is from Wednesday through Friday. Day passes for the trade show can be purchased by the general public for $100. I can't wait to check it out myself. I'll be there Thursday.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Live from Fairfield...

I attended today's ObesityHelp Regional Seminar in Fairfield. I can't even begin to describe how impressed I was by the all-day event. This seminar was small with a handful of vendors manning booths with lots of samples and a series of lectures delivered in the same room. There were about 200 people in attendance, some from as far away as Utah.

I apologize ahead of time for any typos; I blogged directly from the event and pushed each segment live without running spell check. If you find fewer than 10 typos, I think I did pretty well.

For those of you pressed for time or just not interested in wading through the details, let me sum up some of my favorite parts of the day:

Speakers
For the most part, I enjoyed all of the speakers. However, I was surprised by new information a few of them provided. I learned about a new bariatric procedure called vertical sleeve gastrectomy. A less invasive version of bariatric surgery, the vertical sleeve gastrectomy can be done more safely on high-risk patients and features a faster recovery time (see notes on Dr. Cirangle for more information). Another surprise was learning that peanut butter isn't considered a high-protein food. This is terrible news for the woman who often licks peanut butter from a spoon in the name of lunch. Not only is the fat content in peanut butter so high that it outweighs the protein benefit, but the protein in peanut butter isn't easily absorbed. There goes my favorite convenience food. The final, most profound, news I heard was that a runny nose, sneezing and hiccups after a meal are signs of overeating.

Lunch
The beauty of attending a bariatric seminar is that there is no anxiety when lunch time comes. I wasn’t worried that the menu wouldn’t be pouch-worthy. And boy, was I not disappointed.The only plates at the buffet were salad plates, which is important for me. I tend to be a member of the clean-your-plate club, and large-size dinner plates entice me to overeat. Salad plates ensure proper portion control. Lunch was a variety of salads: a curried chicken salad, tuna salad, a selection of cheeses, fruit and a mixed greens salad. Everything was tasty and perfect.

Interesting people
I talked to a few people who attended the seminar to get themselves back on track after regaining some of the weight they lost through surgery. One woman, four years after surgery, has put back on 45 pounds. Though she is still smaller than she was before surgery, she recognizes the fact that her previous size is just around the corner if she doesn’t gain control.

She says that her body tolerated junk food better than protein-rich foods, and she took to eating those more than good-quality foods. She stopped taking vitamins, stopped supplementing with protein, started drinking with her meals, etc.

She said one of her main mistakes was to start thinking of herself as “normal” and acting as if she was an average person. It’s taken her a long time to accept that she’s not normal and never will be. To get herself back on track, she’s started taking a doctor-prescribed appetite suppressant. She says it helps her use her tool the way it was created to be used.

“The big disappointment with weight loss surgery is that it doesn’t fix the daily struggle you fight each day.”

Another testament to it not being brain surgery.

Another interesting point that came up was how many of us blame so much of life’s challenges on being overweight and expect those challenges to disappear with weight loss. But that doesn’t happen. After surgery, your spouse may still belittle you, you’re still going to be insecure and you’re still going to face all of the same emotions you had before. The difference now is that you can’t eat to cope with those problems.

Vendor faire
The vendor faire, though small, offers some great information and features.

ObesityHelp.com has a sampling of products available at its online store. Everything from books to MedicAlert jewelry to hygiene helpers are showcased.Another booth offers a plethora of samples from Bariatric Advantage vitamins and Body Choice protein pudding (12g).

The Body by Katzen booth features numerous photo albums of work by Dr. J. Timothy Katzen, a Beverly Hills cosmetic surgeon who will also speak at today’s event. I even got the opportunity to see breast and buttock implants. The buttock implant is hard as a rock. Gives new meaning to the term “buns of steel.”

Dr. David Elliot of Healthy S.T.E.P.s Weight Loss Center, is a Santa Rosa bariatric surgeon who will also speak today. Dr. Elliot spent 20 years in the U.S. Army and was introduced to bariatrics while studying under another surgeon. He’s been performing gastric-bypass surgery on his own for the last six years.

Lauralyn Bellamy of Embody Success is a life coach who will also speak today. She’s a post-op who specializes in helping other post-ops adjust to life as thin people.

The most popular booth of the day is probably the one with Achiev One. Only available online, either through the company directly or through bariatric Web sites such as bariatriceating.com. Account Exec. Fernando Vasquez had samples of almost every flavor. He was missing my favorite – cappucino. Of course, I shouldn’t complain. After all, my pouch doesn’t even like decaf coffee, and the Achiev Ones do have a small amount of caffeine from the real coffee used as flavoring in them. The drinks are similar to store bought Starbucks Frappucinos, except that they offer 20 grams of protein in each 9.5-oz. bottle. I think they are yummy and have given numerous ones to post-ops I know with daily coffee habits. However, they are not for everyone. A woman behind me complains that they smell of beef jerky but don’t taste nearly as good.

Speakers
Lauralyn Bellamy – “The Key to Overcoming Self-Sabotage in Weight Loss and the Rest of Your Life
Lauralyn spent 51 years of her life on diets before having gastric-bypass surgery three years ago. According to her, “Sabotage is a misguided effort to protect yourself.” It may seem that there is nothing to protect oneself from, but the “reptilian brain” saves us from the unknown. Since many obese people cannot imagine themselves at a normal weight with a healthy, normal relationship with food, the brain considers that a danger zone and will sabotage efforts at weight loss.

Diets work for a short time, she says, because they distract us. Obsessing over food journals, counting calories or carbs or whatever, menu-planning, exercising, etc., keeps the brain from realizing what’s happening at first. Once the brain realizes what’s happened, it kicks in survival instincts and sabotages the weight loss.

Life coaching, Lauralyn’s specialty, is about making life-affirming changes. As she says, “This is not about using food as a reward, it’s about learning how to imagine the rest of your life.”

She goes on to say that it’s important to realize that your “sabotage voice loves you” and make it an ally in your efforts. The challenge is that nobody can dismantle his or her own defense mechanism, which is why therapists and life coaches are needed, she said. One example of a strong defense mechanism, she said, is forgetfulness. A third party can help to keep you conscious throughout the day and throughout your life. That's so important, she said, because surgery alone doesn't fix everything. It's not magic; it takes work.

Dr. J. Timothy Katzen – “Plastic Surgery After Weight Loss”
Dr. Katzen’s specialty has been post-weight loss plastic surgery for the past seven years. He’s certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and has offices in Beverly Hills, Santa Barbara and Hawaiian Gardens. Any surgeon can call him or herself a plastic surgeon, so it is very important to make sure surgeons are board certified.

Body contouring is the general term for the type of cosmetic surgery needed after drastic weight loss.

Why is it needed?
Weight loss leads to losing fat, shrinking muscles, buckling fascia (connective tissue). The skin attempts to recoil, but age, elasticity and overall health determines how well it can resume a normal shape.

Dr. Katzen explains what he calls the “Lamp Shade Analogy.” When a person gains weight, the body balloons out – body parts become spherical. When weight loss occurs, the body shrinks, leaving the appearance of a deflated balloon.Medically, reconstruction decreases and eliminates the occurrence of rashes, improves self-esteem, improves hygiene (a big issue when dealing with excessive folds of skin) and increases the ability to exercise.

Dr. Katzen suggests gastric-bypass patients consider cosmetic surgery once weight has stabilized, about 10 to 12 months after surgery and when you’re been at the same weight for about three months. Lap-Band patients, he said, should wait about 22 months after surgery.

He believes in doing reconstruction in a certain order: torso (abdomen and trunk), medial thighs, breasts and arms. Face work can be done at any time, he said. He recommends doing the torso first, because it’s the foundation of the body. He also does not believe in doing all of the needed reconstruction in one shot. He says it’s safer to do reconstruction in a series of procedures.

Another thing to remember, Dr. Katzen said, is that reconstructions are shape surgeries not weight surgeries. Patients should not expect to lose mass amounts of weight from cosmetic surgery, though having excess skin removed may give the appearance of major weight loss.

Cosmetic surgery is considered elective and is usually not covered by insurance companies. However, Dr. Katzen explains the necessity of documenting rashes, skin breakdown, back and neck pain and hernias, which help prove to some insurance companies that the reconstruction procedures are medically necessary.

Some terms to know
Panniculectomy: Removes apron of skin and the fat in it. No muscle tightening, no hernia correction. However, this surgery is the one most likely to be covered by insurance companies.

Abdominoplasty (tummy tuck): Removes skin and fat, tightens abdominal muscles, tightens fascia, allows for hernia repair. Incisions on women can vary from a high "french cut" to a low "hip-hugger" cut or anywhere in between. For men, the incision usually follows the underwear line.

Circumferential Body Lift: A continuation of the abdominoplasty incision that goes right around to the back. The procedure not only tightens the tummy but allows for lifting of the outer thighs, removing saddle bags, removing love handles and lifting buttocks. The incision is low in front, trails up over the hip and goes back down in the rear to help the scar be covered by insurance.

Buttock implants: Dr. Katzen says he’s a firm believer in implants to create a rounder back side. He doesn’t believe other procedures last. Saddle bag removal: Sometimes, body lifts don’t fully remove saddle bags and extra work is needed.

Thigh lift: Varying procedures that tighten and remove excess fat and skin from the legs. According to Dr. Katzen, Blue Cross of California no longer covers thigh procedures under any circumstances. He predicts this to be a trend with insurance companies. If you need a thigh lift, now is the time to try for one through your insurance company.

Breast surgeries: Includes augmentation, lift or a combo of both. Incisions can be in the shape of an anchor, T or lollipop. For women, augmentation is often needed. For men, the procedure is more about flattening the region and tightening the skin.

Arms: Minor problems an be treated with liposuction, medium problems can be treated with a lift that has a crescent-shape scar hidden in the armpit, severe problems require an incision from armpit to elbow.Dr. Katzen suggests people who want cosmetic surgery to quit smoking, exercise regularly and take vitamins as soon as possible before surgery.

Dr. David Elliot – “Protect Your Pouch: Maximizing Your ‘Window’ of Opportunity”
Dr. Elliot, a Santa Rosa bariatric surgeon, starts his session with an anatomy lesson of how Roux-En-Y gastric-bypass works. A one-ounce pouch (about the size of a golf ball) is created at the top of the football-sized stomach. The opening that connects the pouch to the intestine is about the size of a dime.

To protect the brand-new pouch, Dr. Elliot recommends the following the first month after surgery:
Slow progression of diet (food intolerances are common)
Hydration, between meals – not during
At mealtime, protein comes first!
Re-learning to eat (use a small plate, eat slowly)

The stoma (openings to and from the pouch) is swollen the first month, which means that dry foods will get stuck (inducing vomiting or gagging). Also, the divided stomach is hyper-sensitive to many foods, such as caffeine and dairy, among other things. He recommends protein supplements for the first three months in an effort to achieve 60 grams a day (my doctor recommends 80).

Common causes of vomiting:
Stomal stenosis or stricture – stoma closes, causing food and water to come up. Fixed by dilation

Eating too fast – most common reason; patient should spend 30 minutes eating

Excess mucus

Stomal ulcers
Bezoars – collections of undigested foodstuffs (think hairball) that have to be removed with an endoscope

One of Dr. Elliot’s key points is that surgery doesn’t equate to absolute success no matter what. Patients must exercise regularly, eat three meals a day (no snacking) that incorporate nutrient-rich foods to ensure their own long-term success.

Protein is the most important nutrient for the gastric-bypass patient. One point that surprised me, though, is that peanut butter is not considered a high-protein food. He said that the protein is too low in comparison to overall calories and fat. Fish and eggs, however, are excellent protein sources that are often well-tolerated by newer post-ops. For vegetarians, tofu, beans and legumes are good choices.

Hunger tends to return about six months after surgery. The pouch capacity increases (3/4 of a cup), the stoma size increases (pouch empties in two hours instead of four), and weight loss slows dramatically. For people who want to continue losing weight after six months, Dr. Elliot recommends avoiding carbs (they cause cravings and cramping that might be confused as hunger), not snacking (remove temptation from home and work), don’t drink with meals and “water loading.” Water loading is drinking a half-glass of water right before meals to dilute the ghrelin (hunger hormone) in the pouch. This helps some patients be satisfied longer and with less food.

One important thing to protect your pouch from is ulceration. Factors that can lead to ulcers include:
Alcohol
Smoking
Nonsteroidal medicine (ibuprofen, naprosyn, aspirin)

Dr. Elliot recommends giving up alcohol for life because of the danger of ulceration, as well as the high number of calories. On special occasions, he recommends drinking no more than a half glass of wine after a full meal because post-ops are “cheap drunks” because of how fast alcohol is absorbed by the new digestive tract.

Some patients who think they are in menopause find that their menstrual cycles starts back after gastric bypass. This had to do with hormonal imbalances brought about by obesity. For those who want to conceive, he recommends waiting at least one year before getting pregnant.
Most common reasons for regaining weight:· Lack of exercise· Snacking or grazing· Stretching of pouch because of overeating

Long story short, Dr. Elliot says that falling back into old habits is the main reason that people regain the weight they lost during the honeymoon period. Taking advantage of the honeymoon period to learn and create new lifestyle habits is the key to making sure surgery is a successful tool to overcome obesity.

Dr. Paul Cirangle – Will discuss long-term issues that WLS patients need to be aware of forever and the insurance situation in California
Dr. Cirangle’s first topic of discussion was nutritional deficiencies after surgical weight loss.

Malabsorptive procedures (gastric bypass) lead to more long-term nutritional deficiencies than restrictive procedures (Lap-Band). There are varying degrees of malabsoptoion depending on bypass procedure. Duodenal Switch has the highest incidence of deficiencies. RNY is middle of the road.

Malabsorption is why vitamins are such a necessity for bypass patients. Part of the procedure that is gastric bypass actually bypasses the parts of the intestine that absorb vitamins. Dr. Cirangle cites research that shows that patients who didn’t take vitamins regularly in the first two years after surgery not only became deficient later on but also were less likely to be able to correct the deficiency once it occurred. He says the best vitamins are the ones that you’ll take forever.

“If you don’t like the taste, you won’t take it and that makes it a bad vitamin,” he said.

Other reasons patients develop deficiencies is because they had them before surgery and because of the drastically reduced nutrient intake. A scary point Dr. Cirangle made is that gastric-bypass surgery is a procedure that by its nature causes ulcers. He recommends post-ops take some form of acid-reducer daily for the rest of their lives.

Anemia is common and can be caused by anastomotic bleeding (very rare), marginal ulcers, B-12 deficiency and iron deficiency. A third of post-ops will develop it within two years. Supplementing with folate not only helps prevent anemia but also protects your heart, he said.

“Very occasionally, anemia becomes so profound that we have to reverse the procedure,” he said. “That occurs most commonly with the Duodenal Switch.”

Other possible complications that require reversal are protein deficiency and kidney stones. The good news is that he says anemia is 95 percent correctable with supplementation.

The normal human digestive system is so efficient at absorbing calcium that 90 percent of what most people eat is excreted through feces. But for gastric-bypass patients, calcium absorption is difficult because the part of the intestine that absorbs it is bypassed. Dr. Cirangle recommends taking 500 mg at a time (3x a day) with a protein source to improve absorption. He also said that he doesn’t believe that calcium citrate is the only way to go for gastric-bypass patients to absorb calcium.

“To me, the best calcium is the one you like,” he said. “If you like Viactiv, which is calcium carbonate, that’s fine by me.”

Dr. Cirangle mentioned a new procedure on the horizon called a vertical sleeve gastrectomy. It’s a restrictive procedure – no malabsorption – that uses no incisions and is safest for high-risk patients. His practice has done 500 of the procedures, and he said that for those who self-pay, it’s the most affordable option. The other perk is that it’s the safest option for high-risk patients.

Dr. Monica Ganz – “Learning to Think Thin”
Dr. Ganz, who has lost 320 pounds with the help of gastric-bypass surgery, understands the need for the formerly obese to figure out how to think thin. Thinking like a thin person is the key to long-term success, she says. She’s a high-energy speaker who jumps from topic to topic with rapid-fire speed.The first thing Dr. Ganz recommends is to get rid of too-large clothes. The advantage to doing that is that it’s a commitment to “never go back” to your previous size.

Old habits die hard, she says. Every single day is a battle with food demons, but it gets easier with time. The problem with time is that it’s also easier to lapse into old behaviors. Taking pictures each month is a necessary practice. Many post-ops develop body dysmorphic disorder, which means the brain perceives the body to look bigger than it really is. She says it takes the brain a lot longer to catch up with your appearance than it does to lose the weight. According to Dr. Ganz, it can take up to five years for the mind to adjust. Taking measurements regularly is another tool to help combat body dysmorphia.

Be wary of your relationship with the scale
The key to making this a success is it’s a lifestyle. People who use the scale to determine what they will eat that day (treats if they lost weight; depravation if they gained weight) are still on diets, and diets are proven not to work. A scale is only to be used as a tool to guide you; you can’t depend on it as a measure of your self worth.

Getting back to basics
It takes 21 days to form a new habit, but most people give up at 18 days. Get a food scale and measure your portions.· Read labels· Hydration – if you have trouble keeping it down, try Propel, or something similar· Chew your food down to baby-food consistency· Undigested carbohydrates or protein cause gas· Eat slowly – use a timer· Use smaller size items (mini pans, salad plates, baby spoons, etc.)· Sip water all day long until you get 64 ounces to 74 ounces a day· Stay away from fast food (too much of a trigger)

Dr. Ganz recommends eating about 100 grams of protein each day to account for malabsorption. Not all foods have protein that is easily absorbed. For example, she said that eggs have protein that is 99 percent available, where as peanuts are only 49 percent available. On top of that, gastric bypass patients have 25 percent of their nutrients bypassed, meaning they absorb even less. A good rule of thumb to determine whether you need more protein is if you’re tired or have noticed your weigh loss has stalled.

Some aids to help you on your journey· Lactaid or Lactaid milk· Molly McButter to replace butter· Beano to combat gas

After weight loss, many people don’t know how to dress for their new size and shape. Take advantage of personal shopping services at department stores, even if you don’t buy anything. Have your makeup professionally done; go to a salon and have a makeover. Look your best and you will feel your best.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Cooking with almond flour

I've spent a ton of time in the kitchen this week, trying to come up with summertime favorites that are bariatric friendly.

I'm working to perfect a cobbler recipe. My first attempt this week (with white and yellow peaches from the local farmers market) was tasty but too watery. It seems the butter in the recipe wasn't fully absorbed. This taught me an important lesson about the principles of using almond flour to cut down the carb content of foods.

According to Susan Maria Leach, author of "Before and After", which provides a hefty number of bariatric-friendly recipes that Leach modified herself, I made a few common beginners' errors.

When using almond flour, she recommends cutting the fat in a recipe in half because almonds provide a decent amount. Another thing she does is cut the liquid by a quarter, because almond flour doesn't absorb liquid the same way as all-purpose flour. She also recommends using Nature's Sweet, which is available for sale on her Web site, as a sweetener. A high-quality form of maltitol (a sugar alcohol), it behaves the same way as sugar when cooked. This is different from Splenda, which doesn't offer the same volume as sugar.

This information will come in handy next week when I try again after the farmers market. If it works, I'll post the recipe, too. If not, I'll try again the next week.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Recipes wanted

I'm looking for bariatric-friendly summertime recipes. Anything low-carb and high in protein is good. But even if you only have a regular recipe, post it anyway. Maybe we can figure out a way to make it friendly for WLS patients.

I'll start by posting my chicken salad recipe. I make it in single-serving batches, because my husband isn't a fan of chicken so the measurements are approximate for me.

3 oz. cubed chicken breast
1 tablespoon minced celery
1 teaspoon minced red onion
1 teaspoon dill
Marie's peppercorn ranch dressing
Craisins to taste (or other fruit -- apples and grapes are great)
Sprinkle of chopped nuts (pecans and pine nuts are my fave)

Mix first four ingredients in a bowl, add enough dressing to moisten chicken. Salad can be put in the fridge at this point for later. Right before serving, add Craisins and nuts. If you add them too early, the Craisins will bleed color on the chicken and the nuts will lose their crispenss. If necessary, you can add more dressing to keep the mixture moist.

Serve it on a pile of baby greens or atop a Ry-Krisp cracker. YUM!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Liquid calories count

I was talking with a friend today about my recent trip to Tahoe. I was telling her all about the fun I had and the yummy rum runners I discovered there. As I was telling her the ingredients of a rum runner, she commented that they seemed high in calories. I shrugged and said that I knew they were high in sugar, but that the calories were probably lower than she thought.
I looked up the calorie values online and was shocked to see that a basic rum runner is about 200 calories. That's a quarter of what I consume from food in a typical day! That got me to wondering how many calories I drank during my trip. After some simple math, the number 1,600 glared at me from my cell phone calculator. I consumed 1,600 calories in beverages over the course of three days! That's about two full days of food for me.
I'm not one to cry over spilt milk and I'm not losing sleep over this, but it does stop me in my tracks. I'll take more care in choosing my beverages in the future.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Seminar offers opportunity to meet experts, peers

Space is still available for the Obesity Help Regional Seminar in Fairfield, and I’m excited to announce that I will be in attendance. If everything goes according to plan, I will blog from the all-day seminar Saturday, June 24.

The event, which will be at the Hilton Garden Inn, 2200 Gateway Court, will feature speakers on subjects ranging from cosmetic surgery to behavior modification. For information on the scheduled speakers, check out my June 15 posting.

Great opportunity
I’m excited to attend this seminar for a number of reasons. It’s a great opportunity to meet nutritionists, psychologists, surgeons and other professionals who understand the journey I am on. After all, the OH national seminar series isn’t named “Making the Journey Together 2006” for nothing. I love meeting experts in the surgical weight loss field for both personal and professional reasons. The wider my network of experts, the better equipped I become to write about bariatric issues that go beyond the scope of my own experience. A broad network also helps me to better serve the members of the monthly surgical weight loss support group I lead here in Tracy.

But on a personal level, attending this seminar excites me because it will enable me to meet and connect with other gastric-bypass patients — people who have already experienced what I have, people who are at the same spot in their journey as I am and people who hope to one day soon be on the same path as me. People like Karen Robb of Concord.

Son prompts woman to focus on health
Karen, a 36-year-old mother of an active toddler, had gastric-bypass surgery almost two years ago. She has since lost more than 170 pounds, going from 325 to 152. I can identify with Karen’s story. Her beginning and current weights are similar to mine, we both were overweight as long as we could remember, and both of us decided to have bariatric surgery because of children. For her, it was the 10-month-old son she already had; for me, it was the children I hope to have in the future.

“I decided to have the surgery around Christmas of 2003,” Karen told me in an e-mail yesterday. “My son was, at the time, 10 months old. He wasn’t quite walking yet, but he was sure getting around! I was in constant pain from my knees, feet and hips. I could barely stand up, let alone chase a toddler around the house.”

Karen says she had a fairly easy time getting insurance approval for surgery, and she went under the knife Sept. 20, 2004, which was also my very last birthday as a morbidly obese woman. Karen’s “re-birthday,” as she calls it, just so happens to be on the same day as my actual birthday. Yet something else we have in common.

Nothing comes easy
However, Karen is quick to point out that it hasn’t been all peaches and roses on her journey.

“I started out only being able to eat saltine crackers, because everything else made me sick,” she said. “I was so tired for so long. It was at least three months until I started to feel awake again.”

Even now, a year and eight months since surgery, Karen struggles with eating issues and is far from considering herself perfect.

“I have to work every day to use my tool in the correct manner,” she said. “Some days I do good, and some days I revert back to the old ways that got me up to 325 pounds. I just try to take each day as it comes and not regret what I did the day before.”

“I realize now that each day I get to wake up alive and not in pain and each moment I get to spend with my son is a gift. I try not to spend my days regretting what I should have done but instead trying to do what is right today and in the future.”

Wise words, if you ask me. But Karen has a lot of wisdom to impart. She exercises regularly and loves the way she looks in clothing, though she wouldn’t mind a little nip and tuck if she were to win the lottery.

I do not believe for a second that Karen is the only amazing person I will meet this weekend, but even if she is, my trip to Fairfield will be well worth the price of gas.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Kentucky Fried Killer?

I don’t generally blog about items that appear in the Tracy Press, because I figure if you found my blog, you must have already waded through the rest of the site. Let’s be honest, few people wake up every morning with a burning urge to read my musings. Well, that’s not necessarily true, but the people who do are most likely related to me and don’t count in this instance (no offense, Mom; you know I love you).

But I just couldn’t ignore Stephen Chapman’s column in today’s online Voice section regarding a government lawsuit against KFC. Chapman, a Creators Syndicate columnist who also writes for the Chicago Tribune, is considered a Libertarian. In my world, that means that some days when I read his column, I throw the paper down and tell anyone within earshot that he’s off his rocker. Other days, I throw the paper down so I can shake my fist in agreement. Today is a fist-shaking day.

Frivolous lawsuit
Today, Chapman takes the people at the Center for Science in the Public Interest to task for sticking their noses where they don’t belong — in the business of KFC and its use of hydrogenated cooking oil. If you don’t have the energy to read the full column, let me sum the CSPI’s core issue: Hydrogenated oil contains trans fats, which cause heart disease, and KFC should be banned from using it. According to Chapman and some scientists, the jury is still out on how evil, awful or terrible trans fats are.

I’m usually the first person to promote anything that might help our country fight its increasing battle with obesity, but there is such a thing as going too far. Generally, I’m willing to jump on any bandwagon that blames the fast-food industry for the declining health of our country’s citizens. But I’m no Pollyanna. I know that the fast-food industry only provides us with products that are lucrative. We are as much at fault for eating the industry’s high-calorie, low-quality food as the restaurants are for offering mega-size value meals.

The root of all evil?
Do I think fast food is evil? Not necessarily, but I don’t think it’s healthy. I’ve watched “Super-size Me” more than once. I believe there is a correlation between the obesity epidemic and our country’s increased reliance on fast food as the meal-time rule instead of the exception it used to be a generation ago.

There are days, typically when I’m suffering from a serious Jack-in-the-Box craving, when I think all fast-food establishments should be razed and replaced with eateries specializing in convenient healthy foods. But it doesn’t take me long to return to reality.

The fact is that we as a society need to start fighting our own battles instead of having the government do it for us. If we don’t want foods with trans fats, we need to stop eating at places we know serves them. The guy who prompted the CSPI lawsuit claims he didn’t know KFC used hydrogenated oil. Chapman points out that if this guy cared that much about trans fats, he would have asked. If enough people decide the danger of trans fats is too much to bear, KFC will notice a reduction in sales and profits. And nothing makes a company act faster than a dwindling bottom line.

Not only is government action in this case ridiculous on principle, it just doesn’t make financial sense. I’d rather my taxes go toward programs educating the public on a wide range of health issues than to fighting one corporation on one arguably minor point. In my book, this is right up there with the lawsuit against McDonald’s for serving hot coffee.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Lazy day at the lake

It was difficult to wake up this morning. Not only were we out late last night and needing to recover from that, but I had muscles I didn't know I had hurting significantly from yesterday's walk.

While everyone spent most of the day at the beach, Beau and I stayed close to the cabin. We lounged in the sun, with the hopes of adding a little color to my pallid complexion.
As the weather turned cool, we headed down to the Beacon Bar & Grill with Beau's cousins to listen to the live band and enjoy a round of rum runners.

The Beacon is known for its rum runners, a frozen concoction of cranberry juice, orange juice, pineapple juice and rum with a float of dark rum added for good measure. Rum runners were a weakness of mine in my college days, and I haven't had one since. With all of the juice, the cocktails contain way more sugar than I typically allow myself in a sitting. However, I've been experimenting with the concept of enjoying off-program treats in moderation. I still believe that such behavior is better compartmentalized during vacations and not as an everyday habit.
The rum runner was tasty, and the band, AM/FM, was quite good. And we all enjoyed an hour of grown-up time without children in tow.

We left the bar and headed back to the cabins to start dinner. Tonight's family meal consisted of barbecued steak, steamed green beans, chili, garlic bread, au gratin potatoes and more cantaloupe. What can I say? The cantaloupe was quite tasty. I ate a couple of inches of my medium-rare steak, a dozen green beans (fresh from my 3-year-old niece's garden), and a half-cup of chili. It was a protein-rich dinner that sat very well in my pouch.

Because I had to work tonight, we left shortly after dinner as everyone else was getting ready to celebrate a birthday. Though I dislike cake, I was glad to leave before it was served. The whipped cream frosting looked way too tempting.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Historic Camp Richardson

Camp Richardson Resort sits on the southwest shore of Lake Tahoe, about 15 minutes from the casinos in Stateline, Nev.

The rustic collection of winter and summer cabins is not what typically comes to mind when I think of a resort, but that doesn't mean that the place isn't without its charm. A haven for vacationing families, the resort features numerous cabins that can be reserved for a day or a week. Some families have waited years for a spot to open up, and once it does, they return year after year.

My husband's family has been vacationing in Camp Richardson every June for the last six years. All together, the family rents four cabins within close proximity to one another. Some stay a whole week, while others -- like my husband and me -- just visit for a couple of days over the weekend.

Today, we arrived shortly after breakfast. My in-laws had spent last night in the cabin and were quick to show us their incredibly uncomfortable bed. After a quick tour of their cabin, we visited Beau's Aunt Ramona in her cabin. Ramona's cabin, aptly named the Cadillac, is by far the most modern and spacious cabin of anyone in the family. Then again, Ramona has the biggest family, so the cabin is still close quarters for her brood.

Beau's parents took us on a brief walk around to help us get acquainted with the area. We walked down the water. Fun fact: The temperature of Lake Tahoe doesn't vary more than a few degrees throughout the course of the year, because it's the direct result of snow runoff. Today, it was a tepid 32 degrees. Beau waded in after what his mom thought was a dollar bill on the lake floor. Beau discovered it was just a rock, but not before getting chilled to the bone after about five minutes in the water.

Tour of the estatesCamp Richardson is actually a trio of sites, but the cabins are in the Tallac Historic Site, which features the Pope, Baldwin and Valhalla estates.

After Beau's refreshing dip in Lake Tahoe, his parents took us on a brief tour of the estates. For more information on the estates, click on the link in the preceding paragraph.

We enjoyed a leisurely two-mile walk among the estates and trails with Beau's parents before they turned back to the cabin for a nap. We continued on, walking about five miles before heading back ourselves for a bit of lunch and a nap.

Meal time and sleepy time
At the cabin, we scarfed down a quick lunch of ham-and-cheese sandwiches and laid down on the aforementioned rock-hard bed for a siesta. More than two hours later, I woke up, feeling as if I'd slept the entire night. Beau didn't wake up for two more hours.

Shortly after he woke up, we joined the family for a communal dinner of hamburgers, hot dogs and Polish sausage with macaroni salad, chips and fruit. I ate about half a polish sausage, cantaloupe, a bite of macaroni salad and a few chips. I usually steer clear of pasta and potatoes, but I made an exception today for no good reason.

Fun downtown
We left Camp Richardson around 7 p.m. to meet some friends in town for fun at the casinos. Beau and I are notoriously terrible at gambling, so our cash was quickly played out at the slots in Harrah's and Harvey's. We then met our friends at the Cabo Wabo Cantina inside Harrah's. We hung out there for a few hours. The cantina was a fun atmosphere with a live band. It's said that one never knows when Sammy Hagar, proprietor of the Cabo Wabo Cantina and creator of the Cabo Wabo line of tequila, will walk in. The Red Rocker was nowhere to be found tonight, but that didn't stop us from having some fun on the dance floor.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Failing to plan means planning to fail

My husband and I are getting ready for a weekend trip to Lake Tahoe for his family’s annual summer vacation. Of course, I haven’t really given the trip much thought until today – when we’re supposed to be leaving.

That’s not exactly true. I thought about doing laundry, washing dishes, taking out the trash and packing. I’ve spent all week figuring out what to pack for a weekend of hiking, dancing and lounging on the beach, but I didn’t think of much else. Why is this a problem? Well, as I write this, I realize I haven’t spent any time finding out what we’re eating this weekend.

My husband’s family rents cabins along Camp Richardson, and they plan big group gatherings at mealtimes. I’ve asked repeatedly what we’re eating, and I’ve been told, “Well, you know. A little of this, a little of that.” That’s not helpful. I do know that for Father’s Day, there’s a family barbecue that features grilled steak. Otherwise, I haven’t a clue. I wasn’t overly worried about my lack of knowledge, because I figured there was bound to be something I could eat.

Then I read the monthly rant at bariatriceating.com last night. Susan Maria Leach, the site administrator and author of the rant, wrote about a recent vacation with her husband to visit family. Having had surgery five years ago, she didn’t pack special food for herself because she knew she could find something to eat just about anywhere. Unfortunately for her, she was wrong. Most of the restaurants the family visited during her trip didn’t offer anything that wasn’t deep-fried or smothered in gravy. And a family cookout only offered maple baked beans, dried-out hamburgers, macaroni and cheese, macaroni salad and birthday cake. She spent most of one day not eating, because she didn’t want to risk getting sick in public, and to make matters worse, she had to deal with relatives noticing her lack of eating and the hurt feelings that seem to arise around food.

Talk about a rude awakening. I quickly thought back to most of my food experiences around my husband’s family. In general, I, too, can find something to eat anywhere, but there are foods that just will not go down no matter how hard I try: hamburger, sausage, any form of dried or overcooked meat, scrambled eggs, pasta, rice and anything made with whole milk or cream. And then there are the foods that I do eat in a pinch but tend to make me ill: bread, sweets, gravy, fried eggs and potatoes.

As I thought about this, I also thought about the meals I’ve heard the family talk about having at past vacations: Spaghetti and garlic bread, barbecued hamburgers and hot dogs, breakfast scrambles, tri tip, baked potatoes, etc. And suddenly, it became clear that I needed to pack food for myself to prevent me from being in a situation where my choice was to either not eat or eat food that I knew for a fact would make me sick.

So, I’ll spend some time today before we hit the road at the grocery store. I’ll pick up string cheese, lunchmeat, protein bars, and I’ll take along some of the protein powder samples I have on hand. I may not touch a single thing I pack, but that will be better than the alternative.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Obesity Help Regional Seminar in Fairfield

Obesity Help is preparing for its regional seminar in Fairfield on June 24. The all-day event, held at the Hilton Garden Inn, 2200 Gateway Court, will feature a vendor fair, lunchtime reception and lectures on topics related to weight loss.

Obesity Help is an Irvine-based corporation that serves the morbidly obese community through its extensive Web site and bi-monthly OH Magazine.

The June 24 conference will feature four speakers who are well known in the bariatric and weight loss community.

Dr. Monica Ganz has lost 320 pounds following gastric-bypass surgery and is the director of events and chapters for Obesity Help. Her lecture, "Learning to Think Thin" will address the need for post-ops to retrain their brains and go from "thinking fat to thinking thin."

Lori Cochrane is a behavior analyst, speaker, writer and mentor to bariatric patients who had Roux-en-Y gastric bypass about five years ago. Her topic, "Bariatric Behavior: Rules of the Road for Long-term Success," addresses how to replace old behaviors with successful ones and how to enjoy positive change.

Dr. J. Timothy Katzen is owner of Body By Katzen and specializes in post-bariatric plastic surgery. His lecture, "Plastic Surgery After Weight Loss," will address the various types of body-sculpting procedures most common after drastic weight loss.

Lauralyn Bellamy had gastric-bypass surgery three years ago and has created Embody Success! Coaching, to teach others the tools that helped her achieve success. Her topic, "The Key to Overcoming Self-Sabotage in Weight Loss and the Rest of Your Life," is self-explanatory.

Keep checking back for more information on the Fairfield conference and other upcoming OH events. If you're interested in attending the Fairfield event, sign up soon; space is limited.

Step by step: Losses add up

The LA Times is following a brother and sister who tipped the scales at close to 600 pounds each before having Lap-Band surgery last year.

Lap-Band is an adjustable gastric band (think of a bicycle inner tube) that cinches the stomach to limit the amount of food eaten at one time and the speed of which it is digested. Lap-Band patients tend to lose weigh more slowly than gastric-bypass patients and the procedure is considered minimally invasive and is also reversible.

Sheila and Cyrus Tehrani refinanced their childhood home to pay for their procedures. After losing about 150 pounds in the last year, Sheila needed to have a panniculectomy -- or excess belly skin removed -- to help keep her active. The hanging apron of skin was impairing her ability to walk. During the procedure, doctors removed almost 50 pounds of excess skin and repaired a hernia Sheila didn't even know she had.

To read the entire article click here: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-superobese6jun06,1,7135581.story?page=1&coll=la-headlines-california

Practicing what I preach

I've spent the last half-hour in my kitchen trying to figure out what to eat for breakfast and pack for lunch and dinner in preparation for a long night at work.

It's been over a week since I went grocery shopping. Though I bought a bunch of food, I didn't plan very well and didn't stock up on convenient, portable meal options for myself. I have lots of cheese, but no cold cuts to use as lower-fat protein sources. No cottage cheese, ricotta cheese or even low-fat cream cheese.

Here I've been blogging about re-evaluating my eating habits and being more diligent and I forgot the most important thing -- making sure my fridge and pantry are stocked with options conducive to staying on my eating plan.

It took some time, but I've found a few cans of tuna, which will be perfect to take to work today. I have a freezer full of chicken that I just need to thaw and cook up. I can cut up chicken breasts to add to a salad or mix up a batch of chicken salad. I also have my protein powder -- I just need to move it from the cupboard to the counter so I don't forget about it.

More now than I ever, I need to be diligent about planning and making sure I eat good-quality meals and not just what sounds easy on the fly. Now excuse me, I have tuna salad to make before I go to work.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Evaluating eating habits

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I'm nearing the end of my weight loss honeymoon period. In an effort to make the most of the next three months, I'm spending some time evaluating my eating, exercise and lifestyle habits to see where I can make improvements.

I've already recognized that I need to keep a tighter rein on my consumption of fat. This week, I'm paying attention to my portion sizes and how fast I eat. I definitely eat too fast, and eating too fast leads to eating too much.

Though I limit my carbohydrate intake, I enjoy Ry-Krisp crackers. Two crackers offer 3 grams of fiber, 1 gram of protein and no fat. Spreading a half-ounce of cheese on top provides a protein-rich, filling meal. The problem is that when I don't take my time eating, I feel like I have room for two crackers and eat them easily. But then a hour goes by and my pouch starts aching. I sense that it's being stretched by too much food. The feeling is painful and encourages me not to make the same mistake again. Now, I know that my limit is one cracker -- eaten slowly.

As for exercise, I need to work on consistency. I know it's better to work out regularly twice a week than to hit the gym five days one week, two the next and then skip it for three weeks. But my perfectionist attitude, which helped get me to 335 pounds in the first place, prevents me from setting and maintaining realistic goals sometimes.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Fighting against the grain

When I weighed 300 pounds, nobody even blinked when I chose my meals carefully. The same was true when I was 200 pounds. Now that I'm under 160, many people -- particularly those who knew me at my highest weight -- think I need to ease up on my vigilance.

"You should treat yourself," "You deserve a freebie," "Don't you ever just let go?" are comments I get a lot. I try to laugh off such comments, and that often works. But then there are times when such comments lead into evaluations about my current weight. A few well-meaning people have told me that they think I've lost enough weight and that I should stop now. And they use that opinion as justification of why I should have a slice of cheesecake or sample some ice cream.

I don't do so well when people feel the need to tell me how much I should weigh. One would argue that I should be able to tell people that my weight is none of their business. However, I have a hard time drawing such lines in the sand. After all, writing my column and this blog puts me in the spotlight. If I'm going to put myself out there publicly, I don't feel like I get to tell people to mind their own business. I realize this is untrue. I can make myself as private or public as I wish, but it's still hard for me to do.

Instead, I point out to people that with BMI of 28, I'm still considered overweight. I need to lose about 20 pounds before I'm even on the high end of normal. Of course, that usually leads to sideway glance, during which the person tries to picture me smaller than I am now. Then the person typically crinkles his or her forehead and says, "Wow...but that would make you too skinny. You don't want to do that, do you?" Usually, I shrug and say I'm undecided.

That's the truth; I am undecided. I'm very happy at my present weight. I'm healthy; I feel good; life is amazingly easy for me. And I don't feel like I have to work that hard to maintain this weight. But I also know that the more weight I lose within the next three months, the more I'll be likely to keep off forever. And that makes me want to maximize the remainder of my honeymoon period.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Is the honeymoon over?

I've given a lot of thought to Friday's entry about cheese, not because I typically dwell over such things or because I mourn the need to limit my consumption of it. I've been thinking of it because the "honeymoon period" that follows gastric-bypass surgery is nearly over for me.

The honeymoon period is the 18-month window following gastric-bypass surgery in which the patient loses the bulk of his or her excess weight. After the honeymoon period, the gastric-bypass patient becomes more like the average person trying to lose weight. Watching the amount and type of food consumed becomes increasingly important, as does maintaining the positive lifestyle changes made in the preceding months.

One of the challenges is that as the honeymoon period nears an end, it's common to slip into old habits without even realizing it. And it becomes even more important to be vigilant about following the prescribed post-operative eating plan.

But the other challenge is that nearing the honeymoon period also means the post-op has lost a massive amount of weight and is nearing his or goal (assuming the weight loss went according to plan). Why is that a challenge? It's a challenge because our society seems to view weight management as a finite task. People understand the concept of losing weight, especially when morbidly obese people do it. But when a person goes from losing weight to maintaining the loss, people act as if the hard part is over. And if the hard part is over, that must mean that the easy part has begun. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Suited for success

Originally published June 10, in Our Town for the Tracy Press.

This is my first summer at a normal weight. To celebrate, I promised my husband I would buy a swimsuit. He’s a water baby and has pouted for years that I won’t go swimming with him or hang out at our friends’ houseboats. I’ve never even gone on his family’s annual summer vacation at Lake Tahoe.

I can think of few things I dread more than wearing a swimsuit, but I’m pretty sure trying suits on in store dressing rooms is worse. I haven’t bought a suit in seven years. The only reason I bought one then was because I was visiting a relative in Hawaii, and she told me she’d leave me at the airport if I didn’t have a swimsuit in my suitcase.

I’m a planner, and as such, I’ve spent the last four or five months scouting swimsuit styles to see what’s out there and what might look good on me. Weight loss has changed my body into a bit of a pear shape, which makes standard one-piece suits not exactly suitable. The tankini was my greatest discovery. The suits can offer the coverage of a one-piece but the separate pieces can be mixed to offer the perfect fit.

I decided to take advantage of my favorite department store’s Memorial Day sale last week and blocked out a few hours in search of the perfect suit, or at least one that didn’t make me cringe to wear in public. Having already decided I wanted a tankini, I gravitated toward that section.
I fell in love with a selection of suits with brown bottoms and teal-and-brown tops. I was disappointed to see that the store was out of full-coverage bottoms, though. The only brown bottoms were swim skirts and low-rise bottoms, but I grabbed one of each, just in case. After all, the tops were that cute. Then I went to the black suit section and found a modest black set with full-coverage bottoms and top.

In all, I took about a dozen pieces into the dressing room. I set aside my favorite styles to try on. Two of the brown-and-teal tops were awesome. They were both halter-style, which experts say will emphasize the bust line and help balance a narrow upper body with a wider lower body. I also found the halter styles to be more supportive than standard swim tops.

Once I found what I thought was the perfect top, I tried on the bottoms. I went for the low-rise bottoms first, knowing ahead of time that they would probably be a no-go. I was right. I may be less than half the woman I used to be, but that does not mean my navel needs to be seen in public.

Next I tried on the skirt. The tag said swim skirts were good to “slim and hide hips and thighs.” Such skirts may cover the hips and upper thigh, but I strongly disagree that they function to “slim” or “hide” anything. The skirt wasn’t long enough to cover what I consider the most problematic part of my thighs. If anything, having the hemline fall at the widest part of my thighs just seemed to make me look even wider. And, as I remember from the bathing suit I bought seven years ago, when wet, swim skirts cling in all the wrong ways. The skirt was definitely out.

That left me with the lone black suit. I liked the bottoms on. They were basic and showed my entire thigh, but I figured I could wear a sarong if I didn’t want to be so exposed. The top, sadly, was not a halter-style. But it was flattering and supportive, and after waffling back and forth for a solid 10 minutes, I decided to go with it. I bought the top in a size 10 and the bottoms in a 12.
I have yet to wear it, but that family vacation in Tahoe is next week, and the suit is already packed.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Cutting the cheese

It's been almost 15 months since I had gastric-bypass surgery. In that time, I've gone from being able to consume 1 to 2 oz. of food in one sitting to comfortably accommodating 4 to 6 oz., depending on the type of food and time of day.

As I'm able to eat a larger quantity of food, I'm also beginning to realize the increased need to pay attention to the food I eat. Shortly after surgery, I focused mainly on getting in protein -- paying little to no attention to fat content. If alfredo sauce or butter helped chicken or fish slide into my pouch with great ease, then that's what I used. I also started favoring cheese as a quick, convenient protein source.

Many days, breakfast would consist of an ounce of cheese. I'd pack some cheese in my purse if I planned to be out all day and wasn't sure about where I'd be at meal times. An ounce of cheese is about 100 calories and offers 7 to 10 grams of protein. It was a wise choice for portable meals. However, I need to watch my consumption more closely. Reaching for cheese wasn't a problem when an ounce was all I could eat. Now that I can eat 4 ounces in a sitting, what used to be a 100-calorie meal could now be a 400-calorie meal if it only includes cheese. And fat is also an issue. One ounce of cheese has about 8 grams of fat. Four ounces of cheese would push me well over my day's fat limit.

Cheese isn't a new favorite of mine. Growing up in Hilmar, home of the popular Hilmar Cheese Co., my love for cheese began early in life (if you get the chance to visit Hilmar Cheese, I recommend sampling the Squeakers). I don't think it would be exaggerating to say that we go through five pounds of cheese a month in my house. Of course, I'm not the only one eating it. My husband loves snacking on quesadillas, grilled cheese sandwiches and cheese and crackers. He loves ham-and-cheese omelets for breakfast and always adds a couple extra cups of shredded cheese when he bakes a frozen pizza. I prefer to eat cheese out of hand or with a couple of Ry-Krisp crackers.

Now that I'm limiting my cheese consumption, I have to find other quick snacks. Cottage cheese and ricotta cheese are low-fat options that I may start using once again. I got my fill of both in the first weeks after surgery and lost my taste for them, but it's time to try them again. Protein drinks are another fast fix at meal time. And lunch meat still remains a great choice -- though it's another food I've grown weary of over the last few months.

I think I'll be writing more over the next few days about the way I'm altering my way of eating and how I view different foods. As always, I welcome any ideas, questions or feedback on the topic. This is yet another new phase in my life, and it's one I'm learning to embrace.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Concert in the park

For those in the Tracy area, tonight is the first installment of the weekly Performances in the Park at Lincoln Park. Tonight's performer, Megan Slankard is someone of whom I'm quite fond. Not only was she raised in Vernalis -- the community I called home when I first moved to this area -- but she began coming into her own as a performer when I was entertainment editor for the Tracy Press. And her younger sister, Lauren, was my very first intern.

My husband and I enjoy the weekly summer concert series, and like the local farmers market, it's an event we work hard not to miss. Not only is it a free way to have fun, but it feels good to spend a few hours on a Thursday evening out in the open air. Tonight, we've invited some friend from out of town to join us for a picnic dinner during the show. We hope they enjoy it as much as we do.

Personally, I look forward to comparing tonight's experience with last year's series. Last year was the first time we checked out the concert series, because my weight loss had finally reached a point where I could handle sitting on the ground and getting back up. Some challenges I experienced were my newly emerging tailbone getting sore and numb from sitting on the hard earth and the embarassment of everyone behind me getting a great view of my underwear because my pants were always slipping down. I remember I still got winded walking the four to five blocks from the park to where we had to leave our car. But by the end of the series, Beau no longer had to drop me off at the park before parking the car. I was physically able to walk the few blocks in both directions.

Since the last concert in late July, I have lost about 80 pounds. Last year at this time, I was wearing a size 20. Today, I wear a 10/12. I'm packing a sweatshirt in case the evening air turns chilly, an old comforter to provide a little more padding beneath my rear and a selection of cold appetizers and maybe even a little wine just to add to the experience.

I hope to see you there.

Obesity in the news

I just Googled "obesity" and found a selection of interesting news stories that I'd like to share:

• The Urban League of Greater Chattanooga announced a health initiative today aimed at combating obesity among black women throughout the city. Read the story at: http://www.tfponline.com/absolutenm/templates/breaking.aspx?articleid=1786&zoneid=41

• The BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation has awarded $40,000 to the Tennessee Pediatric Society Foundation in support of its Impacting Childhood Obesity Treatment & Prevention Program. Read the story at: http://nashville.bizjournals.com/nashville/stories/2006/06/05/daily34.html

• London - British children as young as 5 are working out in "kid gyms" as fears about childhood obesity grow. Read the story at: http://news.monstersandcritics.com/lifestyle/consumerhealth/article_1171082.php/British_children_seek_to_beat_obesity_in_kid_gyms

• ALBANY - As experts say childhood weight problems are increasing, two Assembly Democrats Wednesday called on schools to test for obesity and fast-food restaurants to detail nutritional information on menus. Read the story at: http://www.pressconnects.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060608/NEWS01/606080343/1006

• As Americans keep getting bigger, hospitals are revamping themselves to accommodate an influx of obese patients. Read the story at: http://english.people.com.cn/200606/08/eng20060608_272044.html

• The federal government says 64 percent of Americans are overweight and 30 percent are obese. That has prompted the Food and Drug Administration, the F.D.A., to issue a report urging restaurants to help control obesity. Read the story at: http://www.voanews.com/english/2006-06-07-voa24.cfm

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Strict parenting linked to overweight kids

Finally, there's a study that has proven what I've known all along: "Clean you plate!" admonishments lead to kids becoming overweight.
The study of 872 families was conducted by Boston University School of Medicine and published in the June issue of Pediatrics, released Monday. Researchers studied the effects of parenting styles on children's weight and found that authoritarian parents were more likely to have obese kids than authoritative parents.
Though none of us can undo the damage done by our parents at the dinner table, we can heed the advice of researchers and break the cycle with our own children by offering flexibility within a firm set of boundaries.
Read an Associated Press article on the study and view video footage at http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060605/ap_on_he_me/diet_parenting_2

The sweet smell of successful marketing

Candy makers are seeing the power of marketing on consumers.

It's been years since miniature versions of full-size candy bars have been on the market. I still remember when Hershey's Kisses and Miniatures were first advertised on TV, and I begged my mom to buy some. As a child, I was enthralled by the idea of trying three or four types of candy instead of having to choose only one to take home from the store. The fact is that most candy consumers are like me. We buy the miniatures because we want variety -- and they fit so great in a candy dish. But that also means that those bite-size treats don't last long once the bag is opened.

But a new day has dawned in the snack food/candy market. Consumers now flock to portion-controlled packaging. Nabisco’s 100-Calorie Packs are all the rage around my office. Nobody feels guilty about a treat when they know exactly how it affects their calorie consumption.

According to a Reuters article, published Wednesday, Hershey Co. and Nestle unveiled similar concepts earlier this week at the All Candy Expo in Chicago. Both companies promoted low-calorie stick versions of their full-size candy bars. Other portion-controlled concepts debuted at the show included 100-calorie packages of Sunkist fruit chews and other low-calorie or sugar-free candies.

The most profound observation comes from Daniel Azzara, Hershey's vice president for global innovation and quality. He told Reuters that this isn't really innovative for the company.

"What's interesting to me is the idea that (now) it's actually labeled "100 calorie" on the front of the package and consumers see that as portion controlled," Azzara said. "In reality, we've had a lot of snack size and Kisses and small pieces of chocolate for a long time."

Azzara's words speak volumes to me. After all, if I couldn't stop at just one Kiss, what would make me think one stick would be enough? Is it because the nutritional information is more clearly displayed? Is my subconscious really that easily fooled? Or is it just that the packaging is more complete? The wrappers are a bit more difficult to open than simply unfoiling a Kiss.
I'm not sure that this marketing ploy will have much effect on how much candy people actually consume, but I do think there will be a lot less guilt surrounding the consumption.

Read the full article on CNN.com here: http://www.cnn.com/2006/HEALTH/diet.fitness/06/06/diet.candy.reut/index.html

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Pamphlet released on obesity

The Obesity Action Coalition has released the first in a series of pamphlets on obesity. "Understanding Obesity" offers readers an in-depth look into obesity and morbid obesity, as well as addressing who it affects, health risks and treatment options.“The OAC recognized that there wasn’t an educational brochure available to patients and the public that really looked at obesity as a whole." said Joseph Nadglowski Jr., OAC president and CEO, in a press release announcing the pamphlet. "Often times, people overlook the many facets of living with obesity or morbid obesity, such as the diminished quality of life, the negative stigma associated with it, the lack of the ability for individuals to access safe and effective care and much more."According to the nonprofit, future pamphlets will address childhood obesity and further examine treatment options

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Appropriate use of protein bars

I was visiting one of my favorite message boards this evening and came upon a post about protein bars that reminded me of how there can be too much of a good thing.

Protein bars can be a convenient, healthy meal replacement in a pinch. However, when used as a snack, they are rarely any better than a Snickers bar. I see too many people who think of protein bars as a replacement for candy. They think of the bars as a healthy treat.
Sure, protein bars offer anywhere from 10 to 40 grams of protein (depending on brand), but they also can be very high in calories. Many that I have are around 300 calories.

As a WLS patient, I can only eat about a third to half of a bar in one sitting. But there are some people who eat two or three a day as a snack. And they wonder why they aren't losing weight.
So, take my advice. If you eat protein bars frequently, make sure you're paying attention to the calories you're taking in and compensating accordingly

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Obesity boosts risk of breast cancer

WebMD has an article on a study linking postmenopausal obesity to breast cancer.
Read it in its entirety here:
http://www.webmd.com/content/Article/122/114754.htm?pagenumber=1