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Monday, April 30, 2007

The gains that come from losing

A message board I visit frequently had a thread this morning from a woman who, as a pre-op, compiled a list of 50 things she wanted to accomplish that required weight loss. Six months after having bariatric surgery, she's crossed 27 things off her list. She asked everyone to post similar lists of their gains related to their weight loss.

Here is mine:

* Cross my legs
* Have a child sit on my lap
* Play tag with my niece and nephew
* Play on the floor with my niece and nephew
* Go hiking
* Fit in turnstiles
* Fit on amusement park rides
* Sit comfortably in a chair that has arms
* Fit comfortably in the seats at Cinemark Movies 14
* Walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded
* Wear stylish high heels
* Paint my own toenails
* Weigh less than 200 pounds
* Fit in an airplane seat
* Fit comfortably in a car seat with a seat belt on
* Walk a block without breaking a sweat
* Walk into an elevator without paying attention to the posted weight limit
* Shop in "normal" stores and buy off the rack
* Respect food as a source of energy, not a source of comfort

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Crazy salad cravings

Despite losing almost 200 pounds, I still can't stand the heat. Sure, I tolerate it a bit better at 138 pounds than I did at 335 pounds, but it still makes me grumpy. I don't like to sweat unless I'm at the gym, and I just hate the lethargy that comes with summer in the Central Valley.

But there is one perk to the weather heating up, my body develops a craving for salads that almost defies description. If my husband was a salad eater, I would probably never turn on my stove in the summer months. I could survive entirely on cold ingredients tossed in a bit of dressing and be perfectly happy.

I don't usually crave basic salads. I'm not the type to crave a Caesar or cobb salad. Sure, I'll eat them, but when it comes to my cravings, I always want something out of the ordinary. This week, my strongest cravings have been for tomatoes and strawberries.

The tomato craving led to me spending three consecutive days living on caprese salads (sliced fresh mozzarella cheese with sliced tomatoes and fresh basil marinated in olive oil and balsamic vinegar). There is just no flavor that can compare to those found in a caprese salad. The sweet tomatoes and basil blend so nicely with the mild cheese and tangy balsamic vinegar. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

To finally feed my craving for strawberries, I picked up a flat of the luscious berries at a stand at the corner of Corral Hollow and Valpico roads in rural Tracy.

When I got home, I washed the berries and surveyed the contents of my fridge to figure out lunch. I settled on a salad, of course. I took some leftover baked chicken breast, chopped it up and added it to a bowl with about a cup of spinach greens. To that, I added two gigantic sliced strawberries, a quarter-cup of shelled pumpkin seeds, 2 tablespoons of ground toasted flaxseed and an ounce of crumbled chevre (soft goat cheese). I drizzled 2 tablespoons of Safeway-brand orange-poppyseed dressing...and it was a little bit of heaven in a bowl.

It hit the spot, kept me cool and offered me plenty of protein. Who could ask for more?

If any of you have favorite salad recipes you'd like to share, post them as a comment. I know I'm always looking for new ideas. I'm sure others are, too. Now if you'll excuse me, I have quinoa to make so I can take the Aztec Platter that I posted last week to work this week for lunch.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

A reunion to remember

I had the pleasure of visiting yesterday with a former colleague and good friend who moved out of state a couple of years ago. This is the second time I've seen her since she moved away. The first was shortly after I had gastric-bypass surgery. In our discussions before she flew in, she worried repeatedly that she wouldn't recognize me. I brushed off her concerns, because she has kept updated on my progress through this blog, and as one of my close friends, I know she'd never not know me.

But that didn't change how emotional our meeting was yesterday, or how exciting it was to see her and her daughters. I nannied for her family when I first moved to Tracy. When I met her and her family, the girls were 8 and 6 and her son was 2. Now the girls are are a beautiful 12-year-old and 14-year-old. At 5 feet, 8 inches, they tower over me. Her 8-year-old son stayed home with his dad so I didn't get to see him.

The girls were more outwardly amazed by my transformation than their mother. That's understandable. I e-mail with their mom numerous times each week. She reads my blog. I haven't had much contact with the girls since they left. And just as I remember them perpetually as the children in the grade-school pictures of them I have framed on my desk at the office, I'm sure they always remember me as the larger-than-life babysitter who tipped the scales at more than 300 pounds.

I hugged the girls half a dozen times each, shocked by their transformation in young women almost as much as they were shocked by mine. The oldest kept throwing her arms around me and exclaiming about how small I was. The 12-year-old told me how good I looked but not before saying, "You always looked good. You just look good in a different way now." Both girls approved of my new red hair color; I suppose that makes me hip. We spent some time catching up before they ran off to an A's game with their grandparents (Tampa Bay defeated the A's, 4-1), and then their mother and I went out for dinner and conversation.

Dinner took us to Pasta Pelican in Alameda. My friend enjoyed a delicious combination of chicken and sun-dried tomatoes in a light cream sauce over linguini. I had the Pasta Pelicano -- a succulent grilled chicken breast topped with melted mozzarella, tomatoes and artichoke hearts that I had served over steamed zucchini, carrots, broccoli and mushrooms.

After dinner, we headed upstairs to the restaurant's bar for a drink and more conversation. We talked about everything under the sun -- our respective jobs, families, what's happened in Tracy since she moved away more than 2 years ago and where her family planned to move next. After closing down the bar, we headed off to Starbucks for iced tea (me) and coffee (her) before heading back to her mom's home at midnight.

It was a night well spent, one that reminds us of how we became fast friends to begin with back in 2000 when we shared a desk at the Tracy Press. But as is often the case with good friends, it was entirely too short of a visit. She flies back home this evening and goes back to her busy life, as I will with mine. But at least we have last night, and the memories of that to last us until our next meeting.

Friday, April 27, 2007

My thoughts on Shrek




I had hoped some readers would offer their opinions on whether Shrek is a bad influence in the anti-obesity movement before weighing in with my own, but it seems I will have to be the first.

I find it interesting that anti-obesity groups would rather spend time and energy nitpicking the government's choices instead of creating programs that promote their purported goals. Then again, maybe nitpicking the government is the only way they know to promote their own agenda.

The question at hand is whether the government erred in choosing Shrek as its "spokesman" to encourage children to be more active when the character is also involved in the endorsement of McDonalds Happy Meals and sugary breakfast cereals.

According to an Associated Press article released Thursday, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood says the upcoming Shrek sequel has too many promotional ties with unhealthy foods.

"There is an inherent conflict of interest between marketing junk food and promoting public health," Susan Linn, the group's director, wrote in a letter sent Wednesday to Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt.

"Surely Health and Human Services can find a better spokesperson for healthy living than a character who is a walking advertisement for McDonald's, sugary cereals, cookies and candy," Linn, an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, was quoted as saying in the article.

I have to give Linn credit for her idealism. In a perfect world, there would be numerous healthy role models for children. But our world isn't perfect. And let's be realistic here: Kids listen to cartoon characters, whether adults like that fact or not. I remember first trying canned spinach as a kid to mimic Popeye, and my niece and nephew begging for cucumbers and tomatoes because of VeggieTales.

Based on that experience, I'd say the government is smart to use a cartoon character in its anti-obesity campaign. So what if Shrek also endorses Happy Meals and candy? If kids can remember that McDonald's has Shrek Happy Meals, then I'm sure they can also remember Shrek's recommendation that they exercise at least an hour a day.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Is Shrek a bad influence on kids?



Please share your thoughts on the following Associated Press story on MSNBC.com:

Associated Press
A children’s advocacy group wants the Department of Health and Human Services to oust Shrek, the animated ogre, from his role as spokesman for an anti-obesity drive.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood says the soon-to-open “Shrek the Third” has too many promotional ties with unhealthy foods to justify using Shrek as a health advocate.

“There is an inherent conflict of interest between marketing junk food and promoting public health,” Susan Linn, the group’s director, wrote in a letter sent Wednesday to HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt.

“Surely Health and Human Services can find a better spokesperson for healthy living than a character who is a walking advertisement for McDonald’s, sugary cereals, cookies and candy,” said Linn, an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

HHS spokesman Bill Hall said the department had no intention of halting the public service ads, which were launched in February.

The ad campaign — which seeks to curtail childhood obesity — is a joint project of HHS, the Ad Council’s Coalition for Healthy Children and DreamWorks Animation SKG, creator of the three Shrek movies. It features ads in which Shrek, a stout and often clumsy ogre, and his fellow characters urge children to exercise at least an hour a day.

“Shrek is a very well known character in the target population of this campaign,” Hall said. “We have always promoted a balanced, healthy diet, which does not necessarily exclude the occasional treat.”

Linn’s organization — a nationwide coalition which monitors marketing aimed at children — said “Shrek the Third,” which opens May 18, has promotional deals with dozens of food products, including Mars Inc.’s Snickers and M&M’s candy; PepsiCo Inc.’s Sierra Mist drink; and Kellogg Co.’s Fruit Loops, Frosted Flakes, Pop-Tarts, Cheez-Its and Keebler cookies.

The film also has a tie-in with McDonald’s; there will be Shrek-themed promotions of Happy Meals and DreamWorks will create animation for some McDonald’s commercials.

“Why would young children follow Shrek’s advice about healthy living and ignore his entreaties to eat Happy Meals and Pop-Tarts?” Linn wrote. “If government agencies are serious about combating childhood obesity, they should stop cozying up to industry and start taking real steps to end the barrage of junk food marketing aimed at children.”

Penelope Royall, the HHS deputy assistant secretary for disease prevention and health promotion, stressed that the public services ads were using Shrek to promote exercise, not foods.

Mean people suck

Forgive my juvenility, but some days, I get so fired up that I just can't use my words. And on those days, even I -- a trained journalist and word smith -- resort to using profanity and childish words like "stupid," "sucks" and "lame." So consider yourself warned as you read below.

Bariatric surgery is a wonderful gift to the morbidly obese. Those of us who have spent most of our lives fighting against our own bodies and the disease of obesity are eternally grateful to have the tool of surgical weight loss at our disposal. However, some of us take it to the extreme. They say there is no stronger believer than a convert -- and many of you will find that's very true when talking to bariatric post-ops.

Many post-ops are so excited to see the numbers on the scale go down almost effortlessly (which happens to everyone during the honeymoon phase) that they want to shout their success from the rooftops. Good for them. As someone who was morbidly obese almost her entire life, I understand the feelings of elation that come with seeing the pounds melt away. But that does not give us the right to judge others.

Just because surgery was the right answer for me does not make it the right answer for everyone else in the world. I wouldn't even dare ask someone if he or she has considered surgery -- it's not my business. If someone who knows me is considering surgical weight loss, they know they can talk to me about it. But I would never bring it up. In fact, I have to admit that I do not walk around in my daily life, surveying whether others should have bariatric surgery at all. It's really not my business nor my concern. It's enough work for me to worry about myself.

Why am I all hot and bothered by this topic? I'm tired of seeing other bariatric patients act cruelly or cluelessly toward those who still battle with obesity. I know they haven't forgotten what it's like to be locked in a prison of their own making. They haven't forgotten the shame, the depression or the embarassment...we never do. So why on earth do they say some of the stupid things they do? My only answer is that they are blinded by their own success.

I still remember the man in the Orchard Restaurant on Highway 132 in Vernalis who took it upon himself to suggest I have gastric-bypass surgery when I weighed about 280. I still want to punch that man in the teeth. I don't care if his heart was in the right place; he really had no right to judge someone he didn't know and tell them that the solution to his weight problem was the solution to theirs.

I have an aunt who has lost about 150 pounds through strict changes to her lifestyle. She had some health issues that severely limited what foods she could eat. As she tells it, eating whatever she wanted was no longer a comfortable choice. So she changed her eating habits, and the weight fell off. It was no easy task, but she did it. And like anyone else who has dropped a significant amount of body weight, she deserves praise and rewards for her accomplishments. However, it seems a group of her colleagues who are bariatric patients disagree.

One woman in the group asked my aunt how she lost her weight without benefit of surgery. My aunt replied, "I count calories. Right now, I'm eating about 1,200 a day."

Instead of congratulating my aunt on her willpower (like I would do) or saying nothing, this woman chose to insult my aunt by saying, "Oh my God! I would feel like a fat pig if I ate 1,200 calories a day!"

As my aunt told this story, which I could tell hurt her feelings, all I could think of was "Well, of course you would. You had surgery to limit the capacity of your stomach. You can't compare yourself to non-ops." But instead, I just told my aunt that her coworker was a mean, jealous woman who should be ignored. Because there is just no point in using logic with some people.

So, to the post-ops reading this: Please don't be like those I've mentioned. Never forget what it was like to be obese and treat people how you would have wanted to be treated.

And to the non-ops: Don't be afraid to speak your mind. If someone mentions gastric-bypass surgery to you, tell them it's none of their business. Because guess what? It's not.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Paying it Forward

My health scare in January has led me to reevaluate a lot of things in my life. I took advantage of the month I was off work to examine my priorities and determine whether they were in line with my values. Since then, I've made the appropriate changes. Some decisions were easier than others.

For instance, I realized that not only do I love my job and people for whom I work, but working at the Tracy Press also fulfills me. Truly, I'm a lucky person. Few people are lucky enough to love what they do. I need to appreciate being among the few in this case.

Loving my job was an easy realization to come to. The more difficult ones have to do with what I want outside of professional circles. There needs to be more to me than just a journalist. After all, having interests outside of our careers is what makes us well-rounded as humans. It gives us context and passion -- all things that are very important.

One thing I know for sure is that I want to take a more active role in advocacy for the obese. More than 60 percent of U.S. residents suffer from the disease of obesity, which means every man, woman and child in this country is touched by the disease. Yet even today, it remains one of the few areas where discrimination is prevalent and accepted. And that has to stop.

Having lost almost 200 pounds, much of which I had carried on my 5-foot, 3-inch frame since childhood, I have two choices: I can let my "normal" exterior fool me and those I meet by pretending I never had a weight problem, or I can use the experience and my newfound energy and mobility to help others. I've chosen the latter.

Childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions, and it's time more people speak out against it as well. The Tracy Hospital Foundation has embarked on an education campaign that includes billboards around town. They help, but more has to be done. It's not fair or realistic to leave the fight up to medical professionals, schools and legislators. As someone who suffered through childhood obesity, I think I have a lot to bring to this particular fight -- and I intend to make my voice heard.

The first step I plan to take in my personal fight against obesity will be participation in the American Society of Bariatric Surgeons' Walk From Obesity. The nationwide event raises money to fund obesity research and advocacy efforts. Walks will be scheduled all over the country in September and October. Specific dates and locations will be announced in May. Keep reading here for more details.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Picture-perfect salad



As the weather warms up this week, I find myself craving salads. Yesterday's lunch consisted of diced chicken breast tossed with herb-garlic cheese and bacon-tomato ranch dressing over spinach greens with a garnish of pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries. It sounds weird, but I promise it was tasty.

The pumpkin seeds, however, reminded me of another salad that I tried about a month ago at an office potluck. This salad, called an Aztec Platter, features quinoa, corn and beans. Quinoa is a grain known for having been a staple food of the Aztecs. It's one of the few plant sources that is a complete protein, meaning it has all the amino acids essential for the human body.

Quinoa has a mild flavor and aroma, and cooks into a light, fluffy texture in only 15 minutes. And that makes this vegetarian salad the perfect light lunch or dinner that won't heat up the house in the warmer months.

Aztec Platter
(Serves 6)

Quinoa-corn salad
1 cup quinoa, well rinsed
1 cup thawed frozen corn kernels
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 or 3 scallions, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Bean salad
1 pound canned beans (pinto, pink or kidney), drained and rinsed
1 heaping cup finely diced ripe tomatoes
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley, or to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Garnishes
Pumpkin seeds
Black olives
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into strips

1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Add the quinoa and simmer gently, covered, for 15 minutes. When the quinoa is done, remove it from the heat, fluff it with a fork, and transfer it to a mixing bowl. Combine the quinoa with the remaining ingredients for the quinoa-corn salad and toss well.

2. While the quinoa is cooking, combine all the ingredients for the bean salad in another bowl and toss together.

3. To assemble the Aztec Platter, transfer the quinoa-corn salad onto a large platter and spread evenly to within an inch or so of the edge. Pushing the salad outward from the center, make a well in the center of the platter about 5 inches in diameter. Mound the bean salad into the well and sprinkle it with a handful of pumpkin seeds. Note: You can also add feta cheese for a burst of flavor.

4. Using above photo as a guide, arrange olives and pepper strips around the edge of the platter.

Calories: 233
Total fat: 4g
Protein: 9g
Carbs: 40g
Cholesterol: 0g
Sodium: 9mg

Monday, April 23, 2007

One Blog a Day

Inside Out has been featured on OneBlogaDay.com.

According to its Web site, 'One Blog A Day' will feature an enterview with a blogger, who has made a significant contribution to the online community, every day.
"Our goal is to let bloggers share their stories with you and get invaluable feedbacks on their hard work. Please contribute to our efforts by sharing your thoughts and comments."

Check it out and tell me what you think.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Is it hot in here or is it just my cooking?

Since having gastric-bypass surgery more than two years ago, I've noticed that my consumption and craving of processed foods have declined. I now favor buying lots of fresh ingredients and spending time in the kitchen, making meals from scratch.

Sundays are my favorite days for cooking. I find spending a few hours on Sundays saves me so much time in the kitchen each night after work, which makes cooking dinner not such a nightly chore. Also, cooking from scratch offers a satisfaction that chicken nuggets or fast food just can't compete with.

Right now, I'm enjoying the aroma of chicken cooking on the stove to make the base for chicken soup for tomorrow night's dinner. Talk about a feel-good childhood memory. And with Safeway selling Foster Farms whole chickens for 99 cents/pound through Tuesday, it's an affordable dinner as well. There is nothing as flavorful as homemade chicken stock, and it's so easy to do, too. Here's my recipe:

Chicken Stock
1 whole chicken (discard organs but retain neck and tail) or chicken parts
2 onions, peeled and halved
4 carrots, cut into three pieces each
4 stalks of celery (or cut the leafy portion from the top and the root from the bottom and use that, saving the nice stalks for a different use)
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
Salt and pepper, to taste
Water

Put the chicken or chicken pieces (and neck and tail) in a large stock pot. Add veggies, packing them tightly into the pot. Add enough water to cover chicken and veggies and bring to a boil. Boil two to four hours, until chicken falls apart. Add more water as needed throughout cooking process. Once chicken is done, turn off heat and allow to cool. Remove chicken to a bowl to cool fully and reserve for other uses (chicken made this way is so flavorful and moist). The neck and tail can either go to the dog or the trash -- your preference.

Strain broth into a large bowl, pressing down on solids to extract all liquid possible. Put broth in fridge to cool overnight. In the a.m., strain the solidified fat from the broth to leave yourself relatively fat-free chicken stock.

At this point, you can use the stock as a base for chicken soup or pour into ice cube tray to freeze for use later whenever chicken stock or broth is called for in recipes.

Chicken soup
6 cups chicken stock
1 med. onion, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced or 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
2 cups chopped cooked chicken, or as much as you like

Add veggies to stock pot and cover with chicken stock. Bring to boil and cook until veggies are tender. Add chicken and cook until heated through. Ladle into bowls and serve.

Note: Add a 1/4 of rice or 1 cup of pasta with veggies for chicken-and-rice or chicken-noodle soup.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Looks can be deceiving

It's been a little more than two years since I had Roux-En-Y gastric-bypass surgery. Most days, I'm at home in my new, smaller body. I'm braver about scooting through tight spaces and I no longer look for armless chairs in public settings. But other days, something will happen that jolts me with the realization that my brain still hasn't caught up with the changes my body has undergone.

For instance, I was visiting some friends after work a few weeks ago when I was confronted by the reality of my size. I was helping my friend in the kitchen, and she offered to let me borrow a dress so I didn't wreck my work clothes. When I went to put her dress on, I held my breath for a moment in anticipation of it being tight. Instead, the knit dress hung off me like a burlap sack. She laughed; I was shocked. Looking at her, I could not see the difference in our sizes but there was no arguing with reality. I'm no dummy. I know what size I wear, but I've apparently lost perspective when it comes to judging the size of others in relation to me.

The disconnect between how one looks in reality compared to how they see themselves is called body dysmorphia. It's a condition that's commonly experienced by those with eating disorders (it's why anorexics rarely see themselves as thin). It's also common among those who've experienced rapid weight loss. The brain seems to have a hard job catching up with the drastic changes. I have heard that it can take some of us up to five years after gastric-bypass surgery before what we see in the mirror matches what the rest of the world sees when they look at us.

One of the best weapons agains body dysmorphia is photographic documentation. Pictures taken throughout the weight loss process help the brain make the leap from "before" to "after." This explains to me why I sometimes perceive myself as a size 14 or 16 instead of the 28 I used to be or the 10 I am now. I think I'm lucky, though. At least I'm getting closer to a realistic view of myself.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Foundation pledges $500M to battle obesity in kids

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation announced early this month that it would commit at least $500 million over the next five years to tackle the problem of childhood obesity, reports ABC News.

The money will be used to fund grants for anyone with ideas on how to fight the nation's growing problem. The concept has prompted me to brainstorm my own solutions to the problem. It's easy to sit back and complain about the epidemic of childhood obesity, but solving it is a different story.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject. If you have an idea, please share it. Maybe we can put our heads together and figure out something to put into practice here in Tracy to improve the health of our children.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Trading vices

A recent story from ABC News reminds me of an emerging side effect of bariatric surgery: cross addiction.

Cross addiction is when a person trades one addiction for another. Sometimes, cross-addiction is considered harmless. If you kick heroin, a two-pack-a-day cigarette habit pales in comparison.

The ABC News story focuses on one woman's shopping addiction, which put her in financial peril. Other addictions bariatric patients need to watch out for include sex, alcohol and drugs. Those addictions are troubling because they bring other health concerns along with them. Sex addiction can lead to sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancy and even issues with self-esteem and depression. Alcohol can irritate the gastric pouch, leading to ulceration and limited absorption of nutrients -- not to mention the risks of losing one's job or family. Drug addiction -- depending on the drug -- also can lead to a variety of health problems and concerns.

The most important thing surgical weight loss patients can do to avoid cross-addiction is to be wary of it. Knowing that it's a danger is the first step. Being self-aware is the next. If you feel that you might be slipping into a cross-addiction, seek out help. Find an addiction specialist in your area -- one that has familiarity with food addiction is best -- and work with him or her to develop healthy coping mechanisms.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Viva Las Vegas


My best friend, Amber, and I just returned from our first trip to Las Vegas in celebration of her 30th birthday. We didn't make it to very many casinos -- truly, you just can't do everything in the city that never sleeps -- but we visited the Palms, MGM Grand, Bellagio, Venetian, Caesars, Harrahs, New York New York and Stratosphere.

Some highlights from our trip:

The Bellagio -- High winds over the weekend canceled the fountain show when we were there, but the casino and hotel themselves are sights to behold. As Amber said, "The bathrooms are almost too nice to pee in!" The Bellagio Cafe, which has tables overlooking the breath-taking conservatory (garden and gazebo design changes four times a year with the seasons), had the best food I've ever eaten. I had a salad with grilled prawns, spinach, feta cheese, artichoke hearts (fresh, not oily and marinated) and kalamata olives tossed in a chickpea vinaigrette that was amazing. The flavors blended perfectly without losing their character. Amber's mom, Merry, ordered the chicken penne pasta and raved about it the entire trip. Amber had the Thai lettuce wraps, which featured tender chopped marinated chicken breast, a spicy peanut sauce and a spicy sesame sauce, bibb lettuce, carrots, and soft asian noodles. The food was so good that not a single one of us had entree envy.

New York New York -- The interior design is awesome, making me feel like I was actually in the Big Apple. The shops and eateries are piled on top of one another, giving the crowded feeling of a major city, and an indoor waterway and trees are reminiscent of Central Park in the spring. We ate at Il Fornaio, which overlooks the waterway. I wasn't impressed with my meal, but Merry said the cheese pizza she ordered was delicious. Unfortunately, the piano bar (which had come highly recommended) wasn't open when we there so we didn't get to experience the dueling pianos.

Caesars Palace -- The first casino we visited, it was difficult not to be overwhelmed by the Forum shops. I touched a horrendously ugly pair of Jimmy Choo boots that were $1,200. Amber and I giggled that we would not have paid $12 for them but it was fun to touch.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

New & Improved

Inside Out has a new look and more features. If you scroll down, you'll notice I've added the following:

* Subscription buttons -- You can now add Inside Out to your Yahoo or Google homepages or to blog reader like Bloglines.

* E-mail updates -- If you'd rather get e-mails each time I post something new, fill out the field on the right.

* News feed -- A selection of stories related to surgical weight loss is now available courtesy of Google News.

* Video feed -- A selection of videos related to surgical weight loss is now available courtesy of YouTube. Select the video you want to watch and scroll up to view it at the top of the page.