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HEALING HURTS. Recovering From Morbid Obesity

When I was a little urchin, I loved riding my bike — especially on vacation. My dad would pack our bikes (mine and my big brother’s) and we were free to fly along the roads at the campgrounds. We typically camped in places like Big Sur or Big Basin — places with big trees and lots of greenery. But, sometimes, we’d camp by the beach, which oddly enough in southern California, does NOT mean you pitch your tent in the sand. No, lots of beach campgrounds here are actually set BACK from the surf and sand in manmade gravel wonderlands. I can still hear the sound the tires made as they slowly moved through the park to get to a site.

One particular summer’s day – I must have been about 6 — my brother and I were riding our bikes on the gravel path and my bike tire caught a big rock. DOWN I went. I’m cringing now at the mere thought of it. I landed on my knee and the blood began flowing immediately — almost as quickly as the tears. Fortunately, I was not that far from the RV, so I managed to hobble over for some urgent care from my mom. Only…my mom wasn’t in the motor home; my dad was. Well he, (being an ex-Navy man which, for some unknown reason qualified him to be a trauma medic) grabbed the first-aid kit and got to work on my knee. Now, I don’t know if you recall first aid kits back in the day, but ours included such things as:

  • Gauze
  • Band-Aids
  • Unguentine
  • Alcohol
  • Peroxide
  • Bactine (I loved the smell of that stuff)
  • Ace Bandage
  • Tongue Depressors
  • Tweezers
  • Nail Brush <– I am convinced it was a wire brush
  • Smelling Salts

In other words, we were well-prepared for any emergency situation.

I sat down and, in between sobs, managed to sputter out the entire, tragic event to my dad who, by the way, seemed curiously disinterested in the part about my knee connecting with the gravel, and more interested in how he was going to extract said-gravel from my knee. I thought it would be okay to leave the little rocks in there, but he was adamant that this would prohibit healing.

So…after irrigating it with some *benign* fluid…acid, I think…he got down to the business of scrubbing my wound with a wire brush. I’m serious. This is how I remember it: Acid and a wire brush. Once my knee was suitably disinfected, it was time to wrap it up. Not wanting me to incur any sort of nasty infection, my dad (in his infinite wisdom) felt it best to completely immobilize my leg with a combination of gauze, tongue depressors and an ace bandage.

I looked like Captain Hook.

BUT, I was patched up, good to go and ready to ride my bike again. Not so easy, considering I couldn’t bend my knee.

A little aside: As a direct result of this incident, I incorrectly learned from my dad that “more is always better” and liberally applied this philosophy to all areas of my life. True.

Okay, back to the bike.

I think I managed to pedal an entire three rotations when…down I went. Again.

If you thought the waterworks were flowing after the FIRST fall, you can only imagine the second one. I now had gravel embedded clear down to my patella. I’m convinced of this. I probably STILL have gravel in there. All I know is, the first aid kit came back out…along with the acid and the wire brush…and I was bandaged from stem to stern and my bike riding days (at least for that trip) were over.

Now, why a I telling you about my double-knee injury? Well, a few days ago I was driving home from work, when it hit me: You never completely recover from a serious injury. There is always a scar.

In the case of my knee, I still bear the scars of that day…nearly 40 years ago. Granted, they have faded, and I can bend my knee without any difficulty now, but I will never forget the event. When I ride my bike the thought of falling and scraping my knee on the asphalt is still there…way in the back of my mind. In other words, I am affected.

Think about that: If a fall from my bike — well, two falls, really — can be that injurious to the body AND mind, imagine what abuse can do to a soul? What sort of injuries did I sustain repeatedly falling off of the diet wagon, instead of a bike?

What about traumatic events, like abuse and addiction? Yes, they leave scars, and those types of injuries affect a person’s ability to function “normally” ever again – if there is such a thing as “normal.”

In my Bariatric After Life,™ I think I have learned to function around my injuries and my addictions, but I do “favor” the old wounds. At this point, it’s out of habit, more than necessity, but like an old sports injury that flairs up when it rains, I do remember the pain.

Which brings me to the idea of recovery from morbid obesity. Talk about SCARS! My shrinkles tell the whole story. It’s true. Sometimes I am angered and disgusted by my loose skin, and I go to that dark place of pain where I blame myself for my condition. But, then…I remember that I can function just fine — yes, even with the shrinkles — and I put my clothes on and welcome the day with arms wide open.

Speaking of which, those arms went through hell to get where they are today. Yes, I said, “hell.” 2-1/2 years ago, I had reconstructive surgery to remove the “bat wings” that I couldn’t accept. That’s pretty major surgery, trust me, and I am left with scars…minor, really, considering the extent of the operation — but they are there, and you know what? There are nights where they just hurt, or they just itch (and I can’t find the place to scratch because the nerves are still a little scrambled.) It can be frustrating and sometimes, I just want to cry when i remember what I’ve gone through. But I don’t. Instead, I take a good look at my arms and my body and realize that I am one of the lucky ones. I can function normally. I don’t look disfigured to the world, and I am blessed — despite my injuries, or maybe because of them. Either way, I bear the scars — emotional and physical — of the ravages of my obesity, and I must never forget my past,

I have come a long way on my journey.

Yes, I was hurt…
…when kids said mean things about me
…when people judged me because of my weight
…when I judged myself because of my weight
…when I medicated the pain with food

But guess what? I have healed — even though I have scars.

My wounds — emotional, physical and spiritual — are like a roadmap from my past, but I don’t need to ever travel those roads again. The road ahead of me might be made of gravel, and I will probably fall and get scraped up again, but I have my first aid kit (with lots of gauze and an ace bandage), and I know that I have many loving people in my life who are willing to “scrub my wounds,” and set me back on the path of wellness.

Yes, sometimes it feels like they are using a wire brush and acid, but I now understand:  Healing Hurts.

I’ll leave you with this:

  • Take time to heal
  • Be kind to yourself
  • Wounds leave scars

July 25, 2011   16 Comments

Interactive Food is FUN Food!

The phrase “Interactive Food” has been pinging around in my head for about a week, and I decided there was probably a blog somewhere in there (LOL). Turns out, I was right.

Interactive Oreo Cookie

Generally speaking, “interactive food” is anything that engages me and makes me feel like I’m doing more than “just eating.” If I feel like I’m having an adventure or an experience, then I’m most likely indulging in “interactive eating” and, since celebrating my food is NOT the goal in my Bariatric After Life,™ this is something I have to monitor. In other words, I need to make sure I’m viewing food as FUEL and not FANTASY.

Let me give you some examples of what I mean by “Interactive Food”…just to help you understand my meaning a bit more.

(Once you read my list, I’m guessing you’ll have a few of your own to add.)

Pizza: There are lots of ways to experience a slice of pizza. You can dredge the cheese off the crust; you can pluck the pepperonis off the cheese; you can streeeeettttcccchhhh the cheese on the slice to see how far you can go before it separates from the “mother ship.” See? Interactive.

Nachos: Do you drizzle the processed cheese crap so that it flows into every nook and cranny of every chip? Do you layer chips, then cheese, then jalapeños, then beans, then meat, then repeat and top with sour cream? Do you scoop up a little of EVERYTHING with each chip? Totally and completely: Interactive

Waffles: Hello, syrup? I need you to fill up EVERY. SINGLE. SQUARE. PLEASE. Interactive breakfast food!

Oreo Cookies: Puhlease. Isn’t this THE most interactive cookie out there? You can twist and separate. You can eat all together — cookie-cream-cookie. You can separate the cookies and pluck off the lard patty. You can roll the lard patty and eat it like a lard burrito. You can stack the cookies and stack the lard patties. It’s crazy interactive.

Chicken Nuggets (or anything you dip): The dipping options are limitless, and you are allowed to double-dip: BBQ sauce? Sweet & Sour Sauce? Ranch with Tapatio? The possibilities are endless. Highly interactive.

Hot Fudge Sundaes: Okay, it’s been awhile, but last thing I remember, there was some engineering skill involved in building the perfect sundae. It involved the perfect base of ice cream, followed by a “Matterhorn-esque” structure of whipped cream, followed by a healthy (ha!) drizzling of hot fudge, nuts and more than one cherry on top. When I went to one of those dangerous ice cream shops, I generally pointed at every container — just like you do at Subway — “Some of that…some of those…yes to the gummies…yes to the sprinkles…yes to the nuts…no to the M&M’s (I’m on a diet.)” Verdict: Interactive

Spaghetti & Meatballs: Do you break the pasta before you cook it? Heck, no! You cook it whole and then you have to twirl it onto your fork using a ladle to support the spool. Do you eat the entire meatball in one bite, or cut it into wedges (like an orange)? Do you drown everything is sauce, or just use a little? How much parmesan and what kind? Grated? Shredded? I loved it when the waiter would use that little grater wheel and tell me to “say when.” Ooooh…Interactiv-isimo.

Coffee: Hello? It has its own interactive category. Coffee has become THE main event. You don’t have to worry about getting turned down for a second cup anymore. Thank you, Starbucks Drive-thru.

Which brings me to my next thought: DRIVE-THRU. Doesn’t that automatically denote that whatever is at the end of that curvy driveway, after the little speaker box, up at the cashier window will necessarily BE interactive? Note that glaring lack of drive-thru windows at: Fresh & Easy, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods? I rest my case.

Okay, so that pretty well defines “interactive food,” right? It’s an event, an experience, a destination. F-O-O-D. Let’s order a party crate and take it to-go.

Now, here’s what I call “Non-Interactive Food” which, by the way…is usually healthy. Okay, that’s just the truth. Healthy food doesn’t come in noisy packaging — you will never awaken someone by opening a banana which to me, is the most interactive healthy food I can think of. That, and maybe an orange. But, I digress.

Here’s my list:

Non- Interactive

Carrots: Okay, you can dip them in ranch dressing. Big deal. Shred them, crinkle cut them (like Ruffles?) Hello. Not interactive.

Celery: Alright, celery CAN be interactive if you add peanut butter so you can “chunnel” it out with your tongue. Aside from that…it exists solely to put the crunch in the tuna. Meh.

Tomatoes: Chop them. Dice them. Roast them. Ketchup them. So what?

Brussels Sprouts:  Are these really from Brussels? Is this the only reason I should ever plan to VISIT Brussels? Do you leaf them, like little heads of cabbage? Not so much.

Lima Beans:  No comment.

Broccoli: Baby trees. Really? Am I supposed to “rawr” like a dinosaur? Sorry gang. Not interactive.

Peas:  I will not give peas a chance.

Chicory:  (I just like the word; I’ve never eaten it, except in coffee).

Wax Beans:

Hummus: Unless you dip pita chips.

Fish: I’ll concede that picking out those teeny bones *can* be extremely interactive…but not in a fun way.

Chicken: Nugget-shaped? Okay! Chicken-shaped? NOT interactive.

Edamame: Fair enough. In all fairness, this is a pretty interactive food. Actually, it can be challenging to extract those little beans from the pod. Chalk one up for an interactive healthy food.

Okay, so why does any of this even MATTER? Well, it’s important for me to understand my relationship with food because, clearly, in my “before life” my relationship with food was quite unhealthy. I’m sure this was due, at least in some part, to my affinity for interactivity!

Interactivity = Fun
Interactive Food = Fun Food
I like fun, so I really liked fun food
Bad math

To me, eating was an EVENT! An ADVENTURE! A DESTINATION! Kinda like the theme of this year’s “County Fair” in Orange County: LET’S EAT! (I wish I were kidding…)

Fortunately, this isn’t really the case any more, which doesn’t mean that I don’t (or can’t) ENJOY what I eat, because I can (and do). I’ve simply learned to be mindful about how I choose to “interact” with food. In the case of Protein Shakes, it happens to be a super healthy interaction! Believe me, I am a mad scientist with a magic bullet…healthy food simply does NOT get anymore interactive than this.

I guess the point of today’s posting is this: It’s important to examine our relationships with food to ensure that our INTERACTIONS are healthy ones. If they aren’t, then perhaps it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate. If it’s a deal-breaker NOT to have fun, then find healthy ways to make it happen. For those of you at home in the kitchen (and around food processors and Jack Lalanne Juicers…and sharp objects), this does NOT have to be as challenging as you would think. There are LOTS of great ways to create healthy interactive food. In my case, I’ve chosen to do it as simply as possible (something which doesn’t work for everyone, but that is why we must all find what works for our lifestyle.)

Go ahead: ASK me about my 1/2 a quiche from Trader Joe’s: Salsa + Greek Yogurt + Black Olives = Interactive!
Cottage cheese: Chipotle salsa + pumpkin seeds + calamata olives = Interactive!

Can you say: ADVENTURE?
Can you say: DAILY INTERACTION?

Hey, I found healthy ways to interact with my food.
Now, it’s your turn. Why don’t you tell me how YOU do it 🙂

I want to branch out!

July 20, 2011   5 Comments

The Bariatric After Life is *SO EXPENSIVE*

I’ve been hanging around the online bariatric community for about four years now, and in that time, I’ve witnessed a steady stream of – what I will nicely deem “misperceptions,” but really want to call rubbish – masquerading as unquestionable truth. These “opinions” are upheld as universally held fact (dare I say, worshipped as dogmatic gospel) and very few people dare to disagree with them. Heaven forbid they be labeled a bariatric heretic. (*GASP!*)

It drives me bonkers.

Let me share a few of these with you, so you’ll know what I mean:

  • Vitamins and supplements are very expensive.
  • Quality protein products cost a lot of money.
  • It is more expensive to eat healthy food, than it is to eat junk.
  • Eating right takes more preparation and planning than eating on the run.
  • I can’t afford to attend weight loss surgery support conferences and retreats.
  • I don’t have money to buy and read books that others recommend.

I don’t know about you, but in my “before life,” I did a lot of things without questioning their cost, value or healthiness.

I would go to 7-11 every morning and purchase (on average):

(1) large French Vanilla Cappuccino
(1) package of yellow Zingers
(1) bag of Rold Gold Pretzels
(2) 2 Diet Pepsis (in the bottle)
(1) Hostess Apple (or Cherry) Pie.

Total cost: About $8.00

If I didn’t go there, then I would drive-thru Krispy Kreme so I could buy a box of HOT donuts “for the office.” Naturallly, I’d buy TWO boxes (because it was “so much cheaper that way,”) and then I proceed to eat “one of everything” and “two of whatever I liked the best.” That would mean:

(1) Glazed
(1) Chocolate bar
(1) Powdered Lemon Filled
(1) Powdered Raspberry Filled
(1) Whatever else I found

Total Cost: About $8.00

For lunch, I would drive-thru Carl’s, El Pollo Loco, Taco Bell/Pizza Hut, McDonald’s or Jack-in-the-Box.

I’d buy:
(1) Fajita Pita Combo (Large)
(2) Tacos
(1) Carrot Cake

Total cost: About $8.00

For dinner, we’d go out for dinner as a family. By, “out,” I mean, one of the fast food giants.

Total cost: About $20.00

Not including MexiKen’s food, OR my daughter’s food, I would spend — AT MINIMUM — $36.00 per DAY on JUNK. There were no vitamins or supplements in there. No salads or healthy food. And I certainly didn’t work out (who had time?)

At a cost of $180/week (or $720 month — CONSERVATIVELY), I was killing myself the “cheap and easy way.”

And…the clothing? Plus size clothes are not cheap, and neither are the undergarments.

  • Pants? $36/pair
  • Tops? $20/each (casual)
  • Business clothing? $75/outfit
  • Bras (46DD)? $48/each (and they didn’t last that long).
  • Panties ($20/3 pair)

It was not uncommon for me to plunk down between $250 and $300 per shopping trip — which I did about 3 or 4 times per year. Of course, I had to constantly replace my clothing because a) I wore the same things day in and day out, so they wore out quickly, or b) I outgrew them, so they didn’t fit anymore.

How about quality reading material? Well, after forking over $200 at the grocery store for things like four, 12-packs of Diet Pepsi, chips, frozen dinners, cookies and “convenient stuff” (that wouldn’t go bad), I would typically toss a $3.50 People Magazine into the cart (because I needed to keep up on the important news of the week.) If we were going on vacation, I’d buy 3-4 of them (so I’d have something to do in camp while everyone else was busy hiking, biking or doing active things.)

And, let’s not mention the spending spree for vacation goodies! Red Vines (red licorice in the tub), Oreo Double-Stuff cookies, junk cereal, chips and dip. Hamburger and hot dog buns, bacon, sausage, pancakes, more diet drinks, peanuts, popcorn, ice cream…and marshmallows.

It was not uncommon to swipe the ATM card for $800 in food for a 2-week road trip — which didn’t account for trips to the gasoline station mini-mart.

So, you see, I never thought twice about the “necessities” of life. I never asked myself, “Is this hamburger combo WORTH $6.00?”…I never said, “Gosh, $0.50 more to go super-size…that’s a lot of money for a few more fries and a big drink cup.” I never said, “how will reading this gossip rag improve my life?”

The bottom line was, I didn’t QUESTION the wisdom of my expenses because I WANTED what I WANTED.

So, what has changed in my Bariatric After Life™? Well, I’ll be honest, I don’t QUESTION the money I spend taking care of my needs, because I know the value of what I’m doing for myself. I don’t ask whether $30 for 12 Protein Blitz drinks is “too expensive,” because I know that those bottles will last me 2 weeks. I don’t grouse about the $25 price tag on that TUB of Protein Powder, because I know it will yield 15 drinks! I don’t complain about the $8.00 for 6 cartons of unsweetened vanilla Almond Breeze, because I know that milk would cost me $3.50 for a half gallon! I don’t complain about the cost of my Revival Soy chips, or my Oh Yeah Protein Bars. I don’t get upset about my Labrada Lean Body on the Go RTD’s, and I ESPECIALLY don’t complain about my VITAMINS AND SUPPLEMENTS. How can I? What sense does it make for me to complain about a $15 bottle of multivitamins that will last me a solid month? How can I be unhappy about spending $45 to attend an Obesity Help conference FOR AN ENTIRE WEEKEND? Yes, there are hotel expenses, but they are so minimal, especially compared to the gas I used to pour into my motorhome!

The point is, life is all about PERSPECTIVE. What price do I put on my health? It is actually CHEAPER to live now than it EVER was in my before life. I am spending far less money and getting far MORE for the effort.

I hear a lot of people justify their expenses by saying they finally believe they are worth it. (Meaning that they now have personal value, so whatever money they spend on themselves is valid.) That’s completely true — but you know what? Now that I’m not spending money on People Magazines, and Hostess bakery treats, I have a lot MORE money to spend on fresh produce and inspirational books. Now that I don’t have to spend so much money on a SINGLE pair of pants, I can opt to wait for sales, or buy THREE for the price of one (and know that they will fit me next year). And the bras? Yeah, same price, but they last longer (and are way prettier!)

Perhaps this is a bit of a rant, but you know what? I am tired of hearing people complain about how “expensive” things are in the bariatric world.

They aren’t.

Things are no more expensive NOW, than were the hamburgers, french fries, sodas, crap magazines and plus size clothing we used to buy without so much as a backward glance or second thought. I’m so OVER people complaining that they don’t want to pay $20 (per year) to help support an advocacy group that is fighting for US. I’m tired of people grousing that $9.95 for a magazine subscription is “pricey.”

And the vitamins and supplements? We should have been taking those before, and we’d have been a whole lot healthier, so complaining about the expense now is a bit silly. The money we save in doctor’s visits ALONE justifies those purchases at the Vitamin Shoppe and Vitacost.com!

And don’t get me started on books. If you don’t have the money, you can always go to the library or borrow a book from a friend.

So, you see…It all boils down to ATTITUDE. Do you WANT to be healthy? Do you WANT to live a longer, happier life? How much is that worth to YOU? Is it worth the price of a McRib, fries and a diet coke? How about a chocolate frosty from Wendy’s? Is it worth that? Is it worth a big old slab of butter cream cake or a massive chocolate chip cookie from BJ’s?

My answer is YES, but I can’t speak for you.

If I sound cranky, it’s because I am. I’m tired of hearing people complaining about stuff that isn’t true. I’m tired of people peddling lies to justify…what? Bad behavior?

It’s time to for a change in attitude…all around. It’s time for an investment in our future. You can agree with me, or you can keep complaining. That’s your choice. As for me? I’m the one who’s spending a fortune on a graduate degree, so what do I know?

I’ll say it again: It’s all about perspective.

What do you think…?

June 10, 2011   34 Comments

NAWLS Retreat: Day 1

Question: How, exactly, do I go about describing a life-altering, 3-1/2 day WLS retreat with the most extraordinary group of women I have ever had the pleasure of meeting?

Answer: ONE DAY AT A TIME.

Hey! That sounds manageable (and familiar)! Over the course of the next few days, I will share my NAWLS Retreat experience in SMALL BITES…just like Katie Jay always does!

For those of you who aren’t aware, over the course of a long weekend, I was blessed to attend a National Association of Weight Loss Surgery retreat in Virginia Beach called: WLS Stages of Transformation: How to find Physical Emotional & Spiritual Freedom on Your Journey. To say that I needed this would be the understatement of the century!

Back story: When I first signed up for the retreat (way back in September), I knew that I would benefit greatly from this experience. I needed the grounding, wisdom and love that I knew this retreat would offer and simply couldn’t WAIT for the day to arrive. Over the ensuring months, I convinced myself that I was “cured” of my addiction (or at least finally “on track” for success), and pondered whether I actually still “needed” to go! Fortunately (or unfortunately) like my life, this sense of peace, confidence and control is fleeting, and by a month ago, I found myself floundering and desperately in need….again.

Guess what? One of the core lessons I learned from Katie is that we all go through stages in our Bariatric After Life™, and it’s extremely common to “repeat” stages you think you’ve “beaten.”

At least I am not alone.

GETTING THERE IS HALF THE FUN: (aka Who Needs Sleep, Anyway?)

For this trip, I had the distinct “pleasure” of departing from the dreaded LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) which can be described in one word: YUCK. My flight was scheduled to leave at 6:45 a.m., which meant that I had to be at the airport at 5 a.m.!!! Needless to say, I was up at 3:30 so I could put final touches on the protein, hairspray and other vital necessities I’d have to pack into the “purple people eater” (massive new suitcase) and carry-on. Suffice it to say, the terminal was a sprawling mass of humanity…all queued up in crazy, meandering lines of insanity. Uck. Not surprisingly, I had to do a lot of ‘splaining to the TSA agents:

ME: “Hi. I need to talk to you about my liquids.”
TSA: “Uh….okay…please step over here.”
ME: “Here is my doctor’s note and my before picture. Yes, that *really* is me.”
TSA: “Wow. Seriously? Dude, *you* need this surgery….” (said to a fellow TSA screener.
ME: “Hey now…that’s harsh! ;-)”
TSA: (Laughing)…pause…confusion…studying the Protein Blitz and Labrada Lean Body on the Go Banana Cream…”They have water on the plane.”
ME: “You’re so silly! There’s no nutritional value in water!!! I need PROTEIN! Can’t you see by my bottles? PRO-TEIN! Oodles of it…”
TSA: “Oh…okay…well…let me test it, and you’re good to go.”

And that was it. No full body scan (this time), no frisk-down (this time)…and me and my protein were not soon parted.

Off to the gate (aka my home-away-from-home).

  • LAX to DALLAS FT WORTH
  • DALLAS FT WORTH to NORFOLK.

What could be easier? [Enter False Sense of Security]

Flight to Texas was easy-peasy. Uneventful as ever, I got to read some more of my Frank Luntz book (WIN: Key Principles to Take Your Company from Ordinary to Extraordinary).

Next thing I know, I’m on the ground, at my gate…and there’s…lots of news about…the weather. Scratching my head. Don’t these people have *anything else* to talk about??? I must be in Kansas (LOL). It looks completely FINE outside. Wall-to-wall discussion of tornadoes and flooding. I’m thinking, “Ahhh…this is like what happens when we have brush fires and earthquakes in California. No matter how small, it dominates the news cycle.” I ignore everything.

What? My flight to Norfolk is delayed?
What? Shannon Watts (who is driving to the retreat) keeps having to seek shelter in a safe area due to tornado warnings, rain and high water?
What? I’m going to be LATE to the retreat?
What? I’m not the only one….?

Okay. I’ve only been up since 3:30 a.m….no problem. I’ll just….pass the time by eating an Oh Yeah protein wafer. Hum-de-dum….

Let’s review:

  1. Up at 3:30.
  2. At LAX at 5AM
  3. In TX at….I dunno…2?
  4. Due in Norfolk at 5:30PM.
  5. Arrive at Norfolk at…7ish

Should have been bad, BUT, I was met by a “blooming good” sight: My online bariatric buddy, Carla Cooper, holding a fistful of shiny (I love shiny) mylar balloons!! She is a LIVING DOLL! There are 3 flowers and a Pink Flamingo (LOL) in the bunch. I instantly went from “exhausted” to “shocked” to “bubbly” in 5 seconds flat!!! How sweet of her to be the welcome wagon when I touched down for the first time (ever) in Virginia!!!

Sidebar: Did I MENTION that Carla had a tummy tuck only 5 weeks ago??? Am I allowed to mention this, Carla? She looked PHENOMENAL! No drains, minimal garments, little pain – wowza!

Being an expert traveler, greeter and organizer, she shepherded me to the correct baggage carousel and watched for THE PURPLE BAG. Yes, it has its own groupies (LOL). Like clockwork, it emerged and we were off to the curb, where I was met by Linda Garner’s lovely son, Chris. Oh, but not before Carla snapped a bunch of cute piccies!!!

Sidebar: Hair + travel + humidity + rain + wind = flat.

Welcome to NORFOLK, VA!

 

Me, Carla and some balloons

Cue the wind, rain and crinkly nose!!

 

Off to the beach house!

Before I knew it, I was hugging her goodbye (until we meet again at the WLSFA Mother of All Meet & Greets in Vegas next week), and then me, the Purple People Eater, a fistful of mylar balloons, and Chris were off to the beach house. For the record, Chris is a LIVING DOLL! He is the kind of son every mother wants to have, and the kind of guy every girl wants to marry. Easy, girls, he’s happily taken. We talked (yes, HE talked too), and threaded our way along country roads, dotted with high-water warning signs and police cars, rerouting us down safer paths. Poor Chris! He had to go back to the airport to pick up another person after he dropped me off.

We finally arrived – albeit it, several hours late for the retreat – but Linda was there with a bowl of salad, some homemade meatless chili, a hug, some kind words of encouragement…and a hand to grab my balloons. After showing me to my room, which had 2 sets of bunkbeds. And a crib. — I was off to meet my new friends. To say I was slightly nervous would be an understatement. I HATE BEING LATE, and this was about as late as you could be…except for the person who had the distinction of showing up AFTER ME.

I scanned the room of faces and quickly found Shannon Watts. I then found Allison, whom I SWEAR I know. Her gaze met mine, and I was immediately at ease. And there was Katie….sitting in a chair within the circle of, what I would come to know as, love.

I had arrived in time to learn about the expectations for the event, and it was off to bed! We’d decided that quiet hours would be from 10 AM to 6 AM. I made noise until midnight. Sorry, ladies…but I was on California time. Did I mention the bunk beds??? Yes, I got one of two “uppers” in the party room; Shannon got the other, but mine was special because there was a crib at the foot of it (don’t ask). Suffice it to say, in my “before” days, there is simply no way on God’s Green Earth I’d have been able to navigate the ladder and avoid the crib. I’d have been panicked that the bed would collapse onto my bunkmate, Karen, below, or that I’d fall over the railing, and land beside Shannon’s bunkmate, Terri. Either way, it’ wouldn’t have ended well.

Anyway, sometime after midnight, I managed to crawl beneath the sheets, lay my head down…and stare into the darkness until my excitement abated long enough to envelop me in blessed sleep.

Next stop: A beach walk and the first full day of retreat!

May 5, 2011   6 Comments

LIPO BOWLING WITH THE WLS ALL STARS

In a New York State of Mind (Still)

So, I think this will be my last installment for the NYC trip. Most because I’m going on a NAWLS retreat with Katie Jay, but also because I’m ready to write about other things. Of course, I saved the very best for last.

Though I had a BLAST in Manhattan, I was secretly waiting for Friday afternoon. No, not because the rush hour traffic is so legendary in town, but because me and the Bariatric Blogger Babes (and Vince) were going to get to take the LIRR (that’s Long Island Railroad) from Penn Station to Long Island to hang with our very favorite WLS peeps: Maryellen Ruggiero and Frank Surace — you probably know them from LIPO (Long Island Post-Ops), but I just know them as wonderful friends.

So, anyway, we took a couple of cabs to the station — NEVER REALIZING THAT IT WAS RIGHT NEXT TO MADISON SQUARE GARDEN!!! Oh my goodness, that was freaking amazing. Why didn’t my camera work? D’oh.

Anyway, we descended into the belly of the mass transit system (like lemmings to the sea?) and found our way to a ticket machine to buy our fare. That was the easy part. Next, we had to decipher the code, to figure out exactly WHERE we were supposed to catch the the train??? Trust me, the numbers on the ticket mean NOTHING. ZIPPO. NADA. At least not to *THIS* California girl.

So. I asked someone. New Yorkers are NOTORIOUSLY friendly and helpful. Except for the guy who asked us to politely move aside because were taking *a tad too long* to make our purchase and he was going to miss his train.

Okay, so we asked a guy: “Excuse me? Where do I catch this train?”
“Uh…sorry…I never go to Long Island. I have no idea.”

(Well, *who does, really…?)

Okay, let me ask someone else: “Excuse me? Where do I catch this train?”
“Hmmm….that would be track 19. Hurry. It’s leaving now.”

“Track 19??? Are you sure?”
I wasn’t sure.
So Vince (Traci’s husband) asked a military guy with a gun.
He said Track 18.
I wasn’t sure.
So, I asked the Transit Authority guy in the uniform, sitting in the booth.
He said Track 18.
I wasn’t sure.
We went for it.
They were right. Track 18.

Mind you, this was a PEAK train, but we weren’t the least bit concerned about getting 5 seats together. That would be five seats for: Yvonne, me, Emily, Vince and Traci. We blended right in and didn’t look even a little bit like tourists.

I’m not kidding.

Poor Dom. That’s the name of the fellow with the book that we wouldn’t allow to be read. Oh, I kept calling him “Don,” because I couldn’t hear very well. Evidently, neither could anyone else because we were a *teensy bit too animated.* (read: noisy) That’s how we roll in SoCal. Not so much on the LIRR…

Anyway, he indulged us and we had the best time, making him guess why were in town (he couldn’t) and what we did (again, he couldn’t) and then showing him our “BEFORES” (he kept saying, “HOLY COW! Oh, sorry…” I laughed heartily.

Yvonne had to shush us, and Dom only read 2 paragraphs of his book over the course of the nearly hour-long ride, but thank goodness he was there, because Yvonne learned that he is actually the one who decides what health insurance will cover for his employees? “Do you cover weight loss surgery….?” She asked…

He’s gonna check. He developed a crush on Yvonne (who doesn’t?) I’m pretty sure he WILL cover it, if he doesn’t already!!!

Anyway, Dom (not Don, mind you), told us where to get off.

The train….

And we all clambered out of the train and onto the platform at the station. Now, to find Frank.

“Where are you?”
“I’m at the station. Where are you?”
“We’re at the station, too.”
“Which station?”
“THE STATION. Are we at the right station?”
“That depends. Which station is the right station?’

Can you see where this was going? Thank goodness Frankie is very tall and doesn’t blend in, because we found him.

Okay, okay, *HE* found *US*, because we are — evidently — not entirely low-profile.

So, we hugged (he smelled nice — just saying’) and we piled into his car to go meet Maryellen at the restaurant. What fun we had, yammering FRANK’S ears off…

We ate at….mum….errr….a delightful restaurant…the name of which escapes me at the moment because I don’t really notice stuff like that. Plus, I couldn’t read my menu without my Barbie specs, so…let’s just say, it rocked!!! Maryellen had put a sign on the table for us “BARIATRIC BLOGGER BABES” — just so we’d know we were in the right place. Loved it!!!

Next thing I knew, it was off to BOWLING at Syosset Lanes! That’s right, people, this blog is about LIPO BOWLING WITH THE WLS ALL-STARS!! Anyone who knows me will tell you what an accomplished bowler I am.

Not.

Okay, I thought I was…but then someone (rudely) pointed out to me that the idea is to get the HIGHEST score, not the lowest. Dammit. Off I skipped to get some shoes (my favorite thing) and the lightest pink ball I could find. They only had green. Drats. I hate green, but I went with it. Did I mention it weighed about as much as a coffee cup? A STYROFOAM coffee cup? No kidding,

My thinking was: How much damage can I do with a SIX POUND BALL?

Probably not the best thinking…Despite my best efforts to ensure that the finger holes were “not too big and sloppy” (so as not to release the ball unexpectedly…like behind me — which, for the record — has *never* *ever* happened…) my first frame did not go so well.

All I will tell you is, thank GOODNESS no one had a camera running at this particular moment, because I can and will deny everything.

Okay…here is the honest truth. I bowled a perfect strike.

In the next lane.

Okay, it wasn’t a strike.

But it WAS in the next lane.

And I believe there was “hang time” involved. A little. And some bouncing. And some shrieking in terror, gasping, running and ducking for cover. Why? I do not know. How much damage can a 6 pound coffee cup do? Apparently, there will be some therapy for PTSD after this little episode, but I’m good with that…

I quickly figured out that TIGHT FINGER HOLES DO NOT ALLOW A PERSON TO RELEASE THE BALL IN A TIMELY AND CONTROLLED FASHION. I switched to Emily’s ball (also 6 pounds…but closer to Barbie Pink…it was orange.)

I did much better. I stayed in my lane….the gutter portion of my lane, but my lane, nonetheless.

Until Frankie asked me if I “trusted him.” What is this? Titanic? Yes, I trust you. Why? You want me to WHAT? Straddle the lane while you bowl between my legs? Are you crazy? Absolutely not on your life! Do I face the pins or do I face you? I did not flinch, and alas…he did NOT score a strike. Turnabout being fair play, I extend the very same option to him, and, after securing a rosin bag to the appropriate location, straddled the lane. I bowled, he moved, I did not score a strike.

UNTIL….we bowled upside down…backward…between our legs.

Yes, people, I figured out my technique. I BOWLED A STRIKE. It was a thing of beauty. I saw the whole thing. And so did everyone else (thank you very much). But, this fun was NOT just about bowling. This evening was about raising money for LIPO! It was about providing quality bariatric aftercare support to as many members as possible! It was about getting off the couch and hanging with friends on a Friday night. It was about dancing and being goofy…and delaying poor Jay on our lane who was CLEARLY THERE TO BOWL. Sorry, Jay. I mean that.

All too soon, it was over, but not before we got to give away some PRIZES to the lucky raffle winners!!! We had the time of our lives and loved meeting a TON of new friends. We can’t WAIT to do it again. I hope we meet Dom on the train…

LIPO Bowling with the WLS Stars

LIPO Bowling with the WLS Stars (2011© Marie Mazzo Edie)

So, that’s it. My New York experience. You don’t need to know that I stayed at the Sheraton Long Island — home of the 2011 Obesity Help Conference: Sexy in the City, featuring the speaking talents of our own Ms. Laura Preston. You probably ALSO don’t need to know that you can use my discount code to register and save $45.00 off the regular admission price of $75 by using the code: bariatricafterlife. Finally…you do NOT need to know that…ummm…the rooms have no views. Seriously…but we are NOT there for the views…outside anyway. We will be there to create great memories, make new friends, connect with old friends, hear some great speakers, learn about new products…and take some REALLY GOOD PICTURES!

View Marie Mazzo Edie’s album of the event HEREThanks, Marie!!! – and thanks to all of my new LIPO friends 🙂

See ya October 12-13, everybody!!! Save a seat on the train…now, OFF TO RETREAT!!!

April 28, 2011   17 Comments

PART 4: EES/OAC Bariatric Blogger Influencer Conference (NYC)

Part 4: NYC Bariatric Blogger Influencer Conference • Sponsored by EES and OAC

Yea! We have made it to Part 4 of my Travelogue 🙂 For those of you who were out getting popcorn during the last three installments of our show, feel free to go back and read. Don’t worry, I’ll wait while you catch up.

For those of you who have already read the previous posts, here is a lovely musical interlude for your listening pleasure:

CLICK FOR MUSIC

And, we’re back.

Go ahead, say it: What, in the world happened during the second half of the Bariatric Blogger Conference (besides lunch) and why did you make me wait for 3 entire blog entries???

I’m glad you asked. Can you say: A-D-V-O-C-A-C-Y?

Uh-oh…I think I lost of few of you on that one. Quick — grab a protein shake! Do some jumping jacks! Run a lap and come back!!! This is important and you DO NOT WANT TO MISS IT  (like I did…for…3-1/2 years). Don’t MAKE me whip out the musical interlude on you again.

Advocacy? Really, Cari? Advocacy is the reason you’re jumping up and down and made us wait to read this post?

In a word: YES.

History: I thought I was an advocate. I did all of the right things and joined the right organizations; I did three, consecutive Walks from Obesity, and even formed Team Barbie last year; I devoted (a big chunk of my life) to motivating, educating and inspiring everyone I could — including doctors and medical professionals, but…I still didn’t think my message was being heard — not as loudly as I was yelling it, anyway.

Confession: I have ignored all of the Obesity Action Coalition mailings and emailings and newsletters. Why? Because they looked boring to me, and I didn’t like the magazine. I felt it was missing the point and wasn’t really my message…so I…set it aside. All of the literature always felt so pedestrian or institutional — dare I say (gasp!) — POLITICAL???

And then I met Joe Nadglowski (President and CEO of OAC) at ASMBS in Las Vegas, and he very patiently explained to me that, though he agreed that, up to that point anyway, they’d sorta missed a large (no pun intended) swath of the bariatric population, they were changing the message with a brand new campaign, directly TARGETED to Weight Loss Surgery as a treatment option for obesity!

I still was not convinced. I have a very thick head and a shorter attention span. Sorry, Joe.

But, I did my Walk and everyone came out to get their Barbie Pink Tote bags jam-packed with protein powders, drinks, puddings and vitamins.

TEAM BARBIE LONG BEACH WALK FROM OBESITY 2010

TEAM BARBIE – Walk from Obesity (2010)

We had a lovely time.
Advocating for Obesity.
And Everything.

But…that was it. I didn’t even get my t-shirt this time. So, I thought, “Meh.” And never gave it another thought.

And THEN, I was invited to New York by — none other than the “dull and boring” OAC (Obesity Action Coalition) and Ethicon Endo Surgery. And, right there, big as life on the agenda, was an entire CHUNK of time devoted to: ADVOCACY.

Yawn. Maybe I’d plan my potty break for that time slot…

Ahhh, but that Joe is very, very good at what he does, and he launched into a very, very relevant discussion of the High Profile Things that the OAC has been doing on behalf of obesity (yes, his PowerPoint presentation had pictures).

GEORGIA – Remember that (ghastly) campaign in Georgia? The one with the obese kids on the billboards? Yeah, it was meant to “shame the parents” into caring about their kids. Nice job, Georgia…

Georgia Childhood Obesity Campaign

Click image for article

PETA – Or, how about the PETA billboards — Lose the Blubber…go Vegetarian (because we *all* know there’s *no such thing* as a fat vegetarian…)

PETA Save the Whales

Click image for article

I’m sorry…remind me again how this helps anyone’s cause…???

TENNESSEE: Remember when the state of Tennessee decided that everyone who wanted weight loss surgery would have to pass an IQ test? Read this news article featuring our very own PAM DAVIS!

If you were as ANGERED as I was about these indignities, then you will be happy to know your ANGER was heard…amplified…and effective. OAC rolled up their sleeves, got in there, and FOUGHT for Obesity Rights and Protections. They FOUGHT for the kids on the billboards. They fought for the obese woman on the PETA billboards. They fought for the people of Tennessee.

They won.

But…they didn’t win EVERY BATTLE…not because they don’t have a reasonable message — they didn’t win because they didn’t even get HEARD by certain political committees. Why? Because, in order to have a YOUR MESSAGE HEARD, your group must have AT LEAST 50,000 members. The folks in Washington figure your cause isn’t all that “weighty” if you can’t cobble together a measly 50,000 people, and maybe they’re right…

Guess how many members OAC has? About 22,000….that’s less than HALF of what we need.

I know what you’re saying, “But, I hate politics!” “I don’t want to walk a picket line, holding a sign!” “I don’t want to go door-to-door and hand out pamphlets…”

I don’t blame you. Neither do I.

BUT, if we don’t join forces with OAC, then we are doing nothing more than sitting in an empty stadium, waving our ANTI-OBESITY flag and yelling about the need for change. Ever try to do a “wave” with one person?

Not very effective.

football-empty-stadium-seats-rain

Hooray for Our Team!

But, imagine a stadium FILLED with 50,000 people — ALL OF THEM, shouting for the same thing! All of them waving flags and banners. ALL OF THEM doing a WAVE. Which one do you think Washington will hear? You with your little pennant, or the OAC, with their 50,000 voices?

THE OAC NEEDS US

OAC TEAM OBESITY! 50,000 Fans Strong!

So, yeah, if you guessed, I am passionate about this, because I can CLEARLY see where my contribution and support ARE making a difference.

And that, my friends, is ADVOCACY. That, is why I was so pumped up when I returned from New York City.

If you would like to learn more, click HERE.  My friend Stephanie will hook you up with whatever you need for your support group.

You can also click HERE

Or HERE (to watch a really great video).

Or…Why not become a FACEBOOK FAN?

I hope you are as excited as I am to FINALLY BE HEARD. Go. Fight. Win!

 

Thanks to EES (Ethicon-Endo Surgery) and OAC (Obesity Action Coalition) for sponsoring this amazing conference. Yes, they paid my travel and lodging expenses. Yes, they gave me some great tools and wonderful information. Yes, they included GREEK YOGURT in the breakfast buffet. Yes, they are amazing.

April 27, 2011   No Comments

Part 3: Getting down to business at the EES/OAC Bariatric Blogger Symposium (NYC)

PART 3: Obesity Online: Bariatric Blogger Influencer Symposium • Hosted byEthicon-Endo Surgery (EES) and Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) • New York, NY • April 14/15, 2011 • Mondrian SoHo Hotel • Manhattan

GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS

So, just why DID I go to New York?

I’ll be honest with you, in the beginning, I had no idea why they were bringing us all together. What could Ethicon-Endo Surgery — a large corporation, KNOWN for its Realize® gastric band want with me — a gastric bypasser? What was Obesity Action Coalition’s role in this? Were we all going to stand up and talk, or was there an agenda that we were going to be expected to learn, spout and follow? What was I going to wear…? Why New York? Okay…I can answer that one: Because it’s NEW YORK. (Duh).

In other words, lots and lots of questions, cloaked behind an unintentional veil of secrecy. Hey, we’re women…we’re curious…we need to know stuff!

Needless to say, the anticipation was KILLING me. Fortunately, in preparation for the event, I found solace and distraction in a mani/pedi, some new shoes, and a killer red dress. But, aside from that, I was still pretty anxious.

i thought we might find out when we got to the hotel. Yes, we received a personalized folder of information, and yes, it had a sheet filled with logos…

[Note to Porter Novelli: My “blog logo” includes my picture. You’re forgiven. This time…]

…and it also had an agenda which crammed a whole bunch of speakers into very teeny speaking slots: 10 minutes to welcome us, 5 minutes to talk about the buffet spread for breakfast…okay, not really, but seriously — 10 minute slots here and there. I thought, “how deep are we gonna get in that short period of time?”

Clearly, this would have to wait until after the cocktail reception — which I told you about yesterday. I kinda wondered if we’d learn more about the conference by talking to the people who had actually put the event together (Emily, Keri, David…you know who you are), but they were intent to learn more about US…to understand why we do what we do…to learn about our “before” lives…to get to KNOW US. incredible (but, again…not a lot of answers!!!)

The suspense would have killed me then and there had I not been suffering from blind exhaustion. Believe me when I tell you: Sleep deprivation is worse torture than being buried up to my neck in Jello…but I went with it.

By the way, I don’t want to intimate that EES and OAC were “trying” to keep us in the dark — because they weren’t. On the contrary! They were so freaking excited about the upcoming events, it was all they could do to NOT start the conference then and there. When Joe Nadglowski toasted at the party, he was effusing about the day’s agenda and what they had planned for us. He just KNEW our attendance was going to make a big difference in the WLS and Obese community at large…but he couldn’t talk about it. Yet.

Here’s how the day looked:

At the crack of 8:30 AM, we all joined in The Gallery Room so we could find a seat, then grab a plate for some breakfast. Of course, I am a front row kinda girl. This probably stems from my tortured days in grade school and junior high, where I was forced to sit at the very BACK of the room, all because my maiden name started with a “W.” For what it’s “Worth” (yes, that was my name)…putting a front row person in the back row is a horrible thing to do. Especially when you’re a kid who likes to be involved in the discussion and is blind as a bat. I still squint, but you can imagine my delight when I realized that my married name would put me 4 letters from the front of the alphabet, instead of 4 letters from the end!

As for breakfast? C’mon –  you know it’s ALL about the food for us bariatric types! The organizers deserve a standing ovation for doing an amazing job of putting things out there that we could ALL enjoy! There were hard boiled eggs, fresh fruit, whipped Greek yogurt, and goji berry granola, just to name a few things. I must step out and say: Thanks to all for a great menu!

Don’t ask me about the lunch menu because…I can’t remember. I’m pretty sure there was cheese…but…after that…I’m a little fuzzy. Just know that it was good, too 😉

9:00 AM and TIME to get this show on the road. David Schaffer (Worldwide Director of Communications for Ethicon-Endo Surgery) kicked things off by heartily encouraging us to be the citizen reporters we are. We were told to Tweet, blog and Facebook at will, as there would be a live Twitterfeed on the big screen in the back of the room.

Note: True story (but I remind you that I am blind)…I never saw the Twitterfeed and, since I was on my iPad, I don’t have my usual tool for zeroing in on specific hashtags (like #wlsforum – d’oh!) so I missed it all. 🙁 Second point: I am a terrible typist on aforementioned iPad, and am even worse at multi-tasking. So, some of my status updates were questionable, lacking and misspelled. Pooh. Final insult…I do not have an iPhone or any other such device, so I wasn’t able to take pictures and post them for immediate gratification. I did video with my new FLIP camera, but…uh…in reviewing “tape” once I got home, I can tell you that MAJOR editing will be in order. So, in a nutshell: I barely Tweet, I don’t photo tag (on the fly), my FB statuses leave something to be desired, and I spent much of the conference looking at my lap.

Front Row at the EES/OAC Conference.

Nice. Very nice.

Next, David spoke about PORTER NOVELLI, the marketing geniuses who put the event together for OAC and EES. Everyone was very excited to finally meet the “real people behind the blogs,” as they had been ‘watching and researching’ us for some time leading up to the weekend. Don’t quote me, but I think I heard something about a new reality show in the works called, “The Real Blogger Babes of WLS™…”

Anyway, once we were all done applauding ourselves, David handed it off to Jeff LeConte (EES Product Director for US Bariatric and Metabolic Marketing).

Okay, I’m just gonna say it, because we were ALL thinking it: Jeff has a face for this. Actually, he has a face for pretty much anything, so when he took us through the Myths and Facts of Bariatric Surgery, I’m not entirely sure everyone was watching the Power Point slides. Just felt the need to put that out there, and confirm that any of us would be wiling to watch — uh — hear him speak about absolutely anything again. Anytime.

Jeff LeConte

Jeff LeConte (US Product Director, Bariatric & Metabolic Mktg, EES)

To be fair, Jeff did share a bit about EES’s role in the bariatric landscape. Most people know them for their Realize® band, but they are, apparently much more than that. They embrace patient and doctor education and believe that much more discussion is required if we are to ever going to succeed at erasing the stigma of obesity and bariatric surgery.

At 9:20ish, Jeff threw it to Joe Nadglowski (OAC President and CEO…and, uh…*equally engaging.*) He brought us up to speed on the current state of Obesity in America. Naturally, this involved horrifying statistics about weight, BMI and mortality. It is not a pretty picture, people, but we know it, and that is why we ALL do what we do.

Naturally, by this time, having stopped chomping on breakfast, we began chomping at the bit, wanting to talk to Joe about advocacy and spreading the word. He assured us that this would be covered in Part 2 of the agenda! We all relaxed a bit, and he handed the reins over to Dr. Robin Blackstone (MD, FACS, and President-Elect for the ASMBS).

I’d had the distinct pleasure of chatting with Dr. Robin at the cocktail reception the night before (she is really a lovely lady), so it was great to see her in her element at the lectern. Did you know that the ASMBS has NEVER had a female president. EVER??? Remarkable, but true. That means that she is the first — which is incredibly exciting news…especially considering the fact that the majority of bariatric patients are women.

So, having said that…being the first female-elect *anything* comes with a host of political hot buttons and opportunities to get into hot water by saying or not saying the right thing at the right time. You walk a fine line between taking a firm stand on an issue, and simply supporting the party position. I say this because, Dr. Blackstone, whether she knew it or not when she agreed to speak at our little soiree, was standing in the crosshairs of many frustrated bariatric patients who are tired of not being heard; tired of being told that their medical problems don’t exist, or aren’t correlative to the surgery. We are tired of being told that we are emotionally unstable, and we are screaming for an advocate in the physician arena.

Needless to say, despite the studies and research that she was trying to share, much of what she said was inadvertently taken out of context, misinterpreted or just plain misunderstood. In my humble opinion, she cannot be controversial if she wants to be respected in the *boys club* that is ASMBS. I don’t think she can come in with guns blazing and passionately overturn prevailing attitudes and conventional wisdom. That will come in time.

What I mean by this is, after she discussed the mechanics of bariatric surgery and a bit about future procedures, she opened the floor to Q&A and…well…we did not hold back. We asked about vitamins and food addiction and regain…and all of the things that we live and breathe each day. Her answers were rooted in theoretical studies that the ASMBS has conducted, but they didn’t *seem* to match our own *empirical research.*

I don’t envy her for being on the front line to stand as representative for an entire industry of physicians, medical professionals and healthcare workers.

I can say that the most controversial two things she stated could be interpreted in many ways, but I chose not to read too much into them because, a) I am not a doctor, and b) she is. (LOL).

Here is where the trouble started…

1) She stated that bariatric surgery does not cause vitamin deficiency; vitamin deficiency causes vitamin deficiency. Now, for those people who are struggling with this problem, no matter WHAT sort of vitamins they take, this sounds like a slap in the face. I, on the other hand, took it to mean that many patients are non-compliant and simply do not TAKE vitamins, thus…they are deficient. In other words, simple math: No vitamins IN = Vitamin deficiency out.

Of course, to complicate things, many patients (myself included) were deficient BEFORE surgery, so…I think she was trying to say that surgery shouldn’t be blamed for vitamin problems.

UNFORTUNATELY, for those whose experiences do not match her research, this was — pardon the puna bitter pill to swallow. Now, I don’t pretend to be an expert on vitamins; I just take what I take and am fortunate to have labs that are not reflecting deficiencies. Color me fortunate 😉 Such is NOT the case for many, many post-ops.

2) She also answered a question about Food Addiction, and whether or not there was a higher incidence of addiction (including transfer addictions) in the bariatric population than in the general population. What many of HEARD was that there is no such thing as food addiction (ouch). Again, she cited some studies, but, I believe the bigger issue was not validated, so those of us who DO suffer from disordered eating felt slighted. Having said that, she is not a Psychologist, and I believe she was coming from a Physiological position when she answered the question. To be fair, when one of the attendees brought up the opiate effects of substances (like sugar) found in foods, she was quick to agree that there WAS a physiological component, so, in my estimation, this was not her forte and she might have been better received by the group had she simply said that more research was needed 😉 Again, I’m not a doctor, and I’m CERTAINLY not the first ever female president elect of ASMBS, so I give her a wide berth here. Sorry. I said “wide”…

Pam, Jeff & Dr. Robin

Pam, Jeff & Dr. Robin (Yvonne took this one ;-))

Next came Pamela Davis, a lovely and successful post-op who works for Centennial Healthcare in Nashville. I love this woman. She is as authentic and down-to-earth as the day is long. Somehow, she managed to cram her story into 10 minutes, but made me feel like I’d known her for a lifetime. I so identified with her story of how she hadn’t been able to squeeze into the desks at school when she returned to college.

You see, the same thing had happened to me when I returned to college. I was constantly looking for either a bigger desk, or a chair that I could sit in BESIDE the desk. I shared with Pam that her situation brought back memories for me of back-to-school night at our daughter’s school. We “got” to sit in our child’s chair while the teachers spoke. Horrifying. I couldn’t fit, which often led me to make excuses like, “Oh, gosh, I’ve been sitting all day at work! I think I’ll stand…” — never letting on that my feet were killing me. I also remembered having to walk “all the way across campus” to the next room, while my poor husband lugged a folding chair for me. Not pretty, but a potent memory.

Next, came a new campaign that EES is sponsoring called: HEART ON MY SLEEVE. We were introduced to Tracy, an obese woman with four children who had finally received the gift of a vertical gastric sleeve. This program will follow her progress as she loses weight and begins to participate in more of the things she’d had to avoid for so long. The goal is to dispel the lingering (and debilitating) specter that surrounds weight loss surgery as a viable and legitimate treatment for obesity. I love the concept and champion EES for doing this.

HOWEVER, my feeling was that it was a little “too produced,” because, at one point, she was speaking, and her voice started to crack from the emotion, but the editor conveniently cut that part out. Next thing we know, we pick back up with a very composed person, instead of a very REAL person. That was actually scripted or directed as a way of “saving face” for her…but I think many of us felt that the emotion IS the reason for the surgery, and we don’t want it to be sanitized. If you would like to follow Tracy and encourage her on her journey, here is a link to her blog: Heart on My Sleeve: Getting Real about Gaining Control of My Weight.

Next, we got to introduce ourselves and our blogs. We had exactly 15 minutes. Whoopsie. You cannot fill a room with communicators and NOT let them TALK! They did a great job of keeping things moving, but it was funny to watch the panic on the organizers’ faces when they realized they were sitting on a volcano — ready to erupt.

Thank goodness for LUNCH!!!

Which is where I will stop for the day. Tomorrow, I’ll share the second half of the program, which includes the brass tacks…nitty gritty…down and dirty…real reason we were all brought to New York 😉 Hint: It involves advocacy and social networking.

Stay tuned…

PS — All photos used in this blog appear on the OAC/EES Facebook page. I didn’t take any of them for previously discussed reasons. Plus…I’m IN some of them. Duh.

Oh…one more thing…EES/OAC generously sponsored my trip and paid for my travel and lodging expenses. Credit where credit is due!!!

PHOTO CREDIT: Yvonne McCarthy ©2011 (Bariatric Girl and Good Friend).

April 24, 2011   8 Comments

PART 2: Party Time at the EES/OAC Blogger Symposium (NYC)

PART 2: Obesity Online: Bariatric Blogger Influencer Symposium • Hosted by Ethicon-Endo Surgery (EES) and Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) • New York, NY • April 14/15, 2011 • Mondrian SoHo Hotel • Manhattan

PARTY TIME

Mondrian SoHo Blue Lobby

Blue Lobby at the Mondrian SoHo

So, when last you read, I was finally able to check-in to my glorious hotel room on the 19th floor of the Mondrian SoHo. By that time, I’d been awake for…24…5…6…30 hours, so I was a zombie. After Yvonne made my AC work, and I figured out that the blasted refrigerator was NOT going to chill anything — even the Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer – I settled under the fluffy white comforter and hugged some cushy pillows. Exactly 5 seconds later (or, was it 2 hours?) my cell phone *politely* informed me that I’d done enough napping, and it was TIME to get fabulous.

I sprang from the bed. I crawled out of bed and staggered to the bathroom to figure it all out. Where *is* that light switch? Where do I put all of my lotions and potions? Why is this bathroom so small? Ahhh….that warm water feels heavenly. All inconvenience is washed away on a Calgon-Cloud of amazing body soaps and shampoos (compliments of the Mondrian SoHo).

After about 1.5 hours of of reconstructive repair to my hair and face, I slipped on my new red cocktail dress and slinky silver sandals (thank you, Zappos and Macy’s.) I was ready to head over to Yvonne’s place to wait for the rest of the posse. Laura hadn’t curled her hair yet, because she was delayed by a long phone call, but she had her gorgeous black dress, some of the dreamiest black, Chanel, suede, platform pumps you’ve evah seen..and some stunning bling.

Emily and Cari Ready to Take on Manhattan

Me & Emmy

 

Emily, Laura & Cari

Emmy, Laura & Cari (See? I look short.)

Sidebar: If you haven’t met Laura, she is a vision to behold. The woman IS an amazon (which I say with complete adoration and the teeniest bit of envy). Without shoes, she stands 6-feet tall, so wearing those sky-high pumps, she is 6’5″ – an inch taller than “fabulous,” but an inch shorter than “Oh-My-God.” This makes her tower over me (something I am not used to, as I am 6’0″ in my pumps.) I am pretty sure someone dug a trench for me to stand in, because her boobs were level with my shoulders. ‘Nuff said. End Sidebar.

Yvonne looked über fabulous in a to-die-for black shimmery dress and enviable “ice” in all the right places. In came Emily (complaining about her “pasty-white” legs, and ignoring my compliments about how incredibly shapely they are!) She had Big ‘Ole Texas hair, which gave me and my Tri AeroGel a run for the money.

Laura, Cari, Yvonne and Emily

Bariatric Blogger Babes

Just a “hair” before the “bewitching hour” (7 PM), we headed downstairs to join the fun. Fortunately, we had connections in *high places* and found a handsome man to escort us through the unmarked door to a magical place that rivaled a Sheik’s palace…uh, if sheiks have stripper poles. Just sayin’…I couldn’t help but be reminded of the door in the back of the closet in the Chronicles of Narnia! Either that, or Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. One second, she’s in black and white, and the next? DAZZLING COLOR in the land of Oz! Yes, that is more apropos.

So, we were greeted by lots of lovely people from Porter Novelli (marketing firm), including Emily, Keri and David.

Fun note: I worked with Emily from Porter Novelli to formalize the travel arrangements, and Emily Gomez worked with Keri from Porter Novelli to formalize HERS! We laughed heartily about this. By the way, these girls are just DARLING! I know I’m leaving a few people out…but I was drinking so much “water with a twist of lemon” that I got tipsy and lost track of names. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. End Fun Note.

Okay, so the room was edgy and the lights were low and, as with EVERYTHING in Manhattan, space was at a premium, which meant that we couldn’t spread out *too far* and really got to mingle in style. I would love to tell you about the hors d’oeuvres, but I didn’t eat any of them, because I’m a vegetarian…and all that stuff. From what I hear, they were decadent, so you can take that to the bank.

Melissa, Cari & Maria

Melissa, Cari & Maria (See? I am tall. Just not by Laura...)

Now, who did I meet? Well, in addition to my girls (Yvonne, Laura, Emily and Traci), I got to spend some quality time chatting it up with Dr. Robin Blackstone (president-elect of ASMBS — Yes, THE FIRST WOMAN PRESIDENT. EVER!), as well as Joe Nadglowski (President and CEO, OAC. I’d met him at ASMBS Vegas last year, so this was a catch-up chat :-), David Schaffer (Director, Worldwide Communications for Ethicon), Melissa (Social Networking Guru to the WLS Stars and owner of Momitforward.com), and oodles of fellow blogger babes (like Susan Maria from BariatricEating.com and Lynnda, Toni (and Mike) from BariatricTV. By the way, the BTV crew managed to “breeze” in from JFK about 10 minutes before the party started, yet still found a way to look FAB!

To make it official and kick things off right, Joe addressed the group with a clink of the glass, a toast to all in the room, and cheerful wishes for a successful conference in the morning. Pictures were snapped, laughter was heard, hugs were dished out, and then…as fast as it started…it was over. The super chic club we were in had to shoo us out because there was already quite a queue stacking up behind the velvet ropes outside! Who knew?

And…there we were…a bunch of fabulous looking babes…all dressed up and EVERYWHERE to go. Fortunately, Laura is an NYC girl, so she called up one of her favorite “boys” and we headed for her favorite little Spanish food place in the world — or at least that corner of West Village (Sevilla). We all fit comfortably in a booth (when could ANY of us have ever said that pre-WLS?) and ordered some black bean soup, killer fish (hold-the-rice), and a salad…which filled me up so I couldn’t eat my fish. Darnit. We laughed and chatted and took pictures and then decided that our feet were finito (that’s Spanish for dog-tired)

Back to the hotel for some quality time under the comforter.

Comfy Fluffy Bed at Mondrian SoHo

I spent 5 hours of quality time in this fluffy bed.

Ummm….why couldn’t I sleep? Ohhhh….I know why: Because I needed to play with the little iPad that the hotel had in each room. There were sleep sounds (like crickets, waves, white noise, and whispering voices (!) Uh…no. I did NOT need to feel haunted). After a quick phone call (to MexiKen, of course), I crawled beneath the sheets, closed my eyes and literally did not move a muscle all night.

Five, short hours later, I sprang into action, ready to learn exactly WHY we had all been brought to New York. Wanna know?

Stay tuned for Part 3….then you’ll get the amazing answer to that question!

April 22, 2011   4 Comments

Fabulous Isn’t Glamorous. Necessarily.

I was eating my midmorning cottage cheese with kalamata olives, pumpkin seeds and chipotle salsa, when this thought popped into my head: Do you have to be GLAMOROUS in order to be FABULOUS?

Most people would quickly say, “Yes.” This is due in no small part to shows like “Life in the Fab Lane” (a *reality show* that follows fashion model Kimora Lee in her daily, glamorous life), or “The Real Housewives of ____ (where we see what it’s like to be filthy rich – and (apparently) absolutely, fabulously glamorous.

In other words, what we watch on TV, read in fashion magazines, or see on billboards (mine notwithstanding) is telling us something that isn’t true! We are supposed to believe that being FABULOUS is the same as being GLAMOROUS; but more importantly, we are told that you can’t be one without the other!

Well…being the student of logic that I am, I did a little VENN DIAGRAM to show how this is not necessarily true.

Class is officially in session: (Ahem) To make this better, imagine that I am showing you a really cool PowerPoint presentation on an overhead projector, using a remote control that has a fabulous laser pointer on it. (Notice that I did NOT say the remote is glamorous.)

(Click to Enlarge)

As you can see, some people are glamorous, some are fabulous; some are decidedly non-glamorous, some are simply not fabulous, some are neither glamorous NOR fabulous, some are fabulously glamorous, others are glamorously fabulous, and then there are those people who can’t decide where they are, so they are green. None of this really determines their happiness, but that is an entirely different class that meets every other Friday night.

The point of this should be colorfully clear: You do NOT have to be GLAMOROUS to be FABULOUS. As a matter of fact, you don’t even have to be FABULOUS if you don’t want to be (but then you’d be yellow or green…or something like that, instead of PINK or RED, but I digress.) No one should think less of you because you decide to be something different than they are, and you should never choose to be something you aren’t. At the end of the day, know who you are and be the best version of  you that you can be.

It’s perfectly logical to me: You are free to be whoever you want to be, and no one can tell you otherwise. If you want to be fabulously unGlamorous, that is your right. If you want to be unFabulously glamorous, I celebrate that, too. In my case, because I love shoes, big hair, lots of bling, and fabulous clothes, it’s no accident that I am HOT PINK (Fabulously Glamorous). Where do you fit on this diagram? Don’t worry, you don’t have to tell me, but if you’re spending $20 on a can of hairspray, I’ll pretty much know where to find you…

CLASS DISMISSED

PS — Aren’t you glad I didn’t add “SEXY” to the diagram? Good heavens, I wouldn’t even know what COLOR to use…

April 7, 2011   19 Comments

Rinse. Dither. Repeat.

I have been in a dither. Yes, you read that right: a D-I-T-H-E-R. I am one, big ball o’nerves, and it ain’t pretty. Understand that my usual state of being is “STRESSED OUT” because, for as long as I can remember, I have deluded myself into thinking that Stress = Productivity. That, and I’ve long held the conviction that an idle mind IS the devil’s playground. You see…when I am not being “busy,” I have too much time to think, and we all know what happens when I think: I panic, and then I eat. I don’t know why, or maybe I do, but therapy hasn’t helped me root it out “just yet.”

Okay so, in one small paragraph, you have learned my dirty little secret: I am a stressed out eating machine.

The downside of this is, of course, that if my normal state of being is “being busy,” then ADDING stuff to do to an already overly-burdened schedule…well…that just puts me in a DITHER.

Which brings me back to my opening sentence. I AM IN A DITHER.

The side effect of this is GUILT over DOWNTIME. If I am not “DOING” what I *SHOULD BE DOING* (every second of the day), then I feel GUILTY. Don’t get me wrong, I do understand that this is not healthy (therapy, remember?), but that doesn’t change the fact that it is happening…at least not for now.

In the past, I dealt with it by taking vacations, get-a-way trips…and eating. For the first 18 months after surgery, I dealt with it by being super active — in between surgeries and injuries, that is.

Well, times have changed, and my lifestyle is one big mess o’ busy, which translates into a dither…stress…and eventually UNRELENTING ANGST.

I don’t know how YOU deal with angst, but I try to feed mine. Which is why I have decided to write about it today. You see, I have been feeding my angst (and I eat faster when I’m in an angst-ridden-dither).

I feel MISERABLE about it. No, I’m not beating myself up (okay, yes I am. A. Little.)…I am not very happy with my choices, and know that something’s gotta give — somewhere…but I just don’t know *where* (YET).

I would love to tell you that I’ll be taking the weekend off (but, I won’t…I’ll be spending quality time with my tax man, and showing my home to lookiloos – uh, potential buyers). And…I’d love to tell you that I’ll slow down next week (but, I can’t…I’m going out of town). And I’d love to tell you that I’ll slow down the week after that (but, I can’t, because (______). See what I mean?

STRESS. DITHER. ANGST. EAT. REPEAT.

I usually like to write stuff that features answers, but for now, I’m just throwing it out there so you’ll know what I’m working on — and also, so you’ll know why I’ve been so quiet for MORE THAN A WEEK! (Gasp.)

On a bright note, it is spring (a time of renewal), and I have not lost hope or faith, so things WILL get better, and I WILL find a way to not only survive, but thrive. I just need a little time to regroup. Be patient with me…

Maybe a roadtrip and video would do the trick 😉

April 5, 2011   4 Comments