Thursday, December 30, 2004

Four months: Drum roll pleeeeze!

One milestone down -- One (at a time) to go.

I'm back from my doctor's appointment marking my four months post-op visit. I had my doubts on my New Year's goal, but I have indeed made it. I weigh less than 300 pounds -- 297 pounds to be exact. I have dropped 46 pounds since August of this year and I'm more than 50 pounds lighter than my highest weight reached of 350 pounds.

I'm far from finished and far from the picture of health. Many bariatrics patients I've met have started weighing less than my weight now, but I choose to take the challenges and victories in convenient, bite-size portions (go figure, huh?).

"Reinventing Fran" is a group project and I dare not take credit for this first victory alone. My family, friends and blog readers have been supportive and caring. Many of your calls and emails have kept me off the virtual (very real) ledge time and time again.

If I had been told I would have developed such a close relationship with my doctor's staff and the weight loss support group, I would not have believed it, but is so incredibly true. I've never felt alone in this battle thanks to M.I.S.I., NooMee and 1stCo.

Here are two unsung heroes: Kristi and Genie are two individuals with a thousands things to do in a short period of time and their smiles never take a day off. Most amazingly, the words, "I'm sorry, but I don't have time to...." are simply not in their vocabulary.

I'm a big fan of Super Doc ("Supahdoc") and I think my nickname may someday stick. I have, however, nothing but the highest respect for Dr. Karl Leblanc.

Today's visit was a big evaluation time for us. I'm never "thrilled" by my progress because I still have the thought that maybe I'm not doing enough. Dr. Leblanc was like a proud papa and assured me that the expected weight loss post lap band is about 2-4 pounds a month. I'm averaging 11 pounds a month and I know in my heart's of hearts he's right.

I guess the hardest part of my expectations involves the fact that gastric bypass patients lose weight so much faster. The lap band procedure has helped me limit portions and stomach volume, but I don't suffer food intolerances. Many of the gastric bypass patients you have of heard experience "dumping" if they consume certain foods like desserts and things with a high sugar content. I, on the other hand, baked a chocolate/German chocolate cake Christmas morning. I ate some, but the biggest challenge was keeping those little 2-year-old paw prints out of it.

My health stats are improving: A BMI of 59 has dropped to 48. My percent body fat has dropped to 49 percent which goes a long way to making my body a better, "less oiled" machine. I feel better and that's a great plus for me right now.

Food preparation has become lots of fun thanks to our friends at Louisiana Culinary Institute. I got a kick out of telling my mom that my toddler was in her high chair enjoying herb-crusted baked chicken breast, rice and a salad. My husband is all for the fresh, raw or crispy sauteed vegetables and fresh herbs. I'm eyeing a spot in my yard for an herb garden. Anyone with experience with raised-bed gardening, please send me a comment.

Thanks, again, to those of you who read the blog and encouraged me for the last four months. My next milestone comes on February 14 -- Valentine's Day. My new goals don't involve the scale as much as it does the other stats. I would like to achieve a body fat percentage of less than 45 percent. I guess it's time to burn some rubber!!!

Friday, December 24, 2004

Holidays can help unwrap healthy meal choices

Editor's note: the following is a free-lance Christmas feature that appeared on a local news Web site.

By Frances Y. Spencer

"Merry Christmas" has long been associated with "what are we eating next?" Holiday parties and meals while fun, can easily throw merry-makers off course in their efforts to curb weight gain. Local bariatric surgeon Dr. Karl Leblanc points to reasons why the tree isn't the only thing in desperate need of trimming.

Click here for profile

Obesity, Leblanc said is an epidemic in the United States. It is defined as a disease because of "the long term effects of the problem such as hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, increased cholesterol and triglycerides. Also the fact that there is a significant increase in death rates in the morbidly obese," he said.

The holidays are as good as time as any to focus on healthy eating choices because anyone wanting to succeed in weight loss must commit to a change in lifestyle -- not occasional fasts and gimmicks. Leblanc's Minimal Invasive Surgery Institute aids patients by providing surgical intervention to initiate weight loss, but no matter where one starts the process, it comes back to lifestyle and healthy food choices.

"Overweight individuals typically do not have the sensation of satiety (fullness with meals). Consequently, most will eat until there is nothing left on the plate or when they are stuffed," Leblanc said. "Some of this is learned behavior from when parents tell the child to 'eat all your food', remember the starving people that would love to have this ... One must limit the amount of food intake and alter the types of food, such as low fat and high carbohydrates."

Click here for profile
Good food, however, isn't the Grinch that stole the holiday fun and a local chef and nutritionist is ready to step in with tips that can keep one merry and munching through the yuletide season. Chef Edward Rhinehart said planning and choice is a big part of healthier holiday meals.

"Replace key things," Rhinehart said, such as using extra virgin olive oil instead of the fattier butters for cooking and sauteing.

Rhinehart, an executive chef and instructor at the Louisiana Culinary Institute, identifies a direct link between convenience and unhealthy holiday choices. Individuals watching their weight during the holidays should be wary of over-processed, pre-packaged and canned items. Single-processed oils and fats are healthier and fresh fruits and vegetables will help one avoid added salt and chemicals, he said.

The young chef can rattle off a long list of healthy tips for the holidays and they include:

  • Early eating is better -- The body will process food better earlier as opposed to late at night.
  • Reach for coniferous vegetables -- like broccoli -- and don't over cook them.
  • Raw is better -- Keep parties stocked with raw veggie trays and don't shy away from putting 'live foods' on your dinner menu.
  • Use more crackers and less bread.
  • Alcohol makes it worse -- Even if you have achieved food moderation, don't forget to limit alcohol intake. Red is the healthier wine choice.

Leblanc echoed that the holidays are difficult for many because it's traditionally linked to lots of unhealthy practices. "... the holidays are the very worst. People are not really concerned about this at this time. As we know, most gain a few pounds around this time because of all the sweets and all the alcohol that is consumed. This is a very difficult time for anyone to diet unless they are unusually strong with their diet."

Weight-loss surgery patients may have the same holiday temptations as the general public, but Leblanc doesn't see a lot of weight gain among his patients. "Most are afraid of gaining weight, unless they are prone to cheat," he said.

What may help anyone trying to lose weight is a favorite-foods transformation. Rhinehart performs his own version of Extreme Makeover in his suggestion to make holiday meals healthier. A Festive Veggie Saute involves julianne green beans and other vegetables sauteed in butter and wine. He urged that the butter be replaced with extra virgin olive oil and a butter substitute spray could be added at the end of preparation if a buttery taste is desired.

Pre-cut green beans can be purchased canned or frozen, but Rhinehart notes that fresh, blanched beans will have a more vibrant color with no preservatives or added salt and "you know where it's been." Finally, he suggests that the vegetables be lightly sauteed so that the crispiness and nutrients are maintained.

Moving to main courses and meats, Rhinehart leans toward low fat/low carbohydrate dishes such as his Boston Pork Cup. While it might seem untraditional, what he called "local protein" offers a great alternative for holiday feasting. Meals containing crawfish, tuna, crabmeat and shrimp are lean, high protein options. His one warning, "keep it swimming in water, not in oil!"

Lemons, limes and herbs provide great flavor alternatives, but do not add fat or carbohydrates to the dishes.

On the Internet:

Healthy Holiday Recipes

These are from the article above.

The following recipes come highly suggested for festive feasting with no guilty after taste:

Festive Veggie Saute

4 cups of blanched green beans (french cut or whole)
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 large purple onion
2 cups of string-cut carrots
Extra virgin olive oil
Seasoned to taste

Preparation: If the green beans are fresh, they will take more time to cook and require a separate pan (or separate cooking times) to keep everything crispy and not overcooked. Cover bottom of large saute pan with extra virgin olive oil. Add green beans when oil is hot. Add parsley or fresh herbs of choice. Saute over medium heat until beans are "just" cooked and still crispy.

Cut peppers and onion in long strips, not rings. This will keep the vibrant colors from segregating themselves. Saute peppers, onion and carrot strings in olive oil until they are "just" cooked and still colorful and crispy.

Mixed all vegetables and stir well and add salt, pepper or seasoning of choice.

Place hot Festive Saute in clear glass bowl so the colors can be the highlight of your holiday table.

Garlic and Rosemary Roasted Chicken

Portions: 8

One 2 1/2 pound fryer, halved
Parsley, minced – ½ Tbl
Chef blend – 2 Tbl
Garlic, minced – 18 cloves
Rosemary, chopped, fresh – 0.5 oz

Mise en place:
Preheat oven to 275 F.
Chop fine fresh Rosemary.
Cut fryer in half French and de-bone separate breast and thigh.
Sprinkle with salt, ground pepper, garlic, and rosemary.
Bake breast and thigh separately until almost done.
Remove from oven and let cool ( 15 min. ) place in cooler.
Mince parsley and garlic.

Top with chefs blend and light rosemary.
Place chicken in pan and bake at 400 F for 15 min. 165 F.

Place chicken on plate and cover with sauce.
Place fried rosemary in bowl.
Garnish with chopped parsley and Rosemary.

Caesar Salad Dressing

Portions: 5

Anchovy fillets (optional) – 5 ea
Garlic, crushed – 1 tsp
Egg, beaten – 1 ea
Lemon juice – 1 ½ oz
Extra virgin olive oil – ½ cup
Salt to taste
Black pepper, freshly ground – to taste

1. In large bowl, mash anchovies and garlic together to form paste.
2. Beat in egg and lemon juice until smooth.
3. Beating constantly with wire whip, slowly add oil.
4. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Place in cooler until needed.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

Fructose Sugar – 1 cup
Root Beer (diet) – ½ cup
Balsamic vinegar – ½ cup
Salad oil – 2 cups
Orange juice – 1 cup
Sugar free maple syrup – 1cup

Mise en place:
Sauce pan
Medium mixing bowl

Combine fructose sugar, root beer vinegar and S.F. maple syrup in sauce pan.
Cook until all the ingredients are mixed well, but before crystals form.
Let cool to room temperature.
Mix in orange juice and oil slowly whisk until temporarily emulsified.
Label and refrigerate.

Drizzle on salad accordingly.

Boston Pork Cup

1/2 cup sweetened shredded dry coconut
1 tablespoon light olive oil
1/2 cup chopped red onions
1/4 cup chopped fresh ginger (grated)
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 pound pulled lean pork
1/3 cup lime juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3 to 4 tablespoons minced fresh peppers
2 small heads (about 1-1/2 pounds each) butter lettuce, rinsed and crisped
Add 2 Tablespoons of fresh herbs for a great change
To taste salt free seasoning of your choice

In a 10- to 12-inch frying pan, stir coconut over medium-low heat until golden and crisp, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside. Add oil to pan and place over medium heat. Add shallots, ginger, and garlic; stir often until shallots are soft, about 5 minutes. Add pork; stir until meat is crumbly and no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Spoon off and discard fat. Add lime juice, chopped mint, peanuts, coconut, chiles, and fish sauce to taste; mix to blend.
Pour into a dish and garnish with mint sprigs. Accompany with lettuce leaves. To eat, spoon warm meat mixture onto a leaf, then roll to enclose.

Yield: 8 to 10 appetizer or 4 or 5 entree servings.

Per Serving: 224 calories, 11 grams protein, 7.7 grams carbohydrates, 17 grams fat, 31 milligrams cholesterol, 32 milligrams sodium

Thursday, December 09, 2004

We Have Achieved Movement!

I know that regular exercise is a big part of a successful weight-loss program, but I haven't been pain-free enough to take the plunge into any type of exercise. I still have some pulls and pangs, but I decided that today was the day that Cecilia and I would hit the streets. (Ok, I said I would take the dog too...Hmm, change in plans)

Another change in plans was that I didn't carry hand weights with me. I decided to put Cecilia (almost 35 pounds) in her wagon made for two (almost as heavy) and pull them both through our subdivision.

Yup, the blood has official been pumped!

We walked back to our old apartment down the road and then took the walking tour of our new neighborhood. Both Cecilia and I were sporting blue jean shorts. (This is Louisiana at Christmas time....don't you all have shorts on?)

After a thorough workout for mommy horse, we returned for a healthy shared snack. We combined our personal favorites and had a platter of apples, cheese and triscuits. My little angel loves apples and luckily I already loved cheese as a primary protein source.

We toasted our efforts with a sippy cup and a mug of cold water.

I don't know how miles I charted, but I'm sure it's baby steps in the right direction.

If you have any exercise suggestions, leave me a comment or drop me a line.

Monday, December 06, 2004

15 Weeks and I'm not looking....

You see, I'm just that secure.


Well, maybe it's true. I've told several people I'm within a handful of pounds away from my year end's goal of being under 300 pounds. I've decided not to post another weight until Dec. 30 -- just so happens, I have a doctor's appointment that day.

I think I'm extremely close to the 40th pound lost. I'm not to the point where my clothes fall off of me and I'm still a very overweight woman. I'm actually not too depressed about it and I have to keep having this talk with myself: No rush, slow is good, being healthy is key, no yo-yo dieting, enjoy yourself. Of course, I wish I had a magic mirror that could show me what I would look like 150 pounds lighter.

I haven't written a "State of the Body" address in a while, so I guess it would be good to catch you all up with me.

Frances is never common, so I don't expect my results to be common. I think I'm hitting in the middle. My good friend, a medical professional, is doing much better and has incorporated an exercise plan.

I have not exercised one bit. I'm looking forward to it, but I started having problems with the hernia 6 weeks into the process. My tummy looks like the browning map of a battle field: "See here, that's the six holes from surgery one and that big zipper is the c-section sitting atop the umbilical hernia."

When I go to the doctor, I feel like a docent at the Smithsonian: "Now, let's all walk over to the Lap Band port...walk swiftly...right next to the huge bruise on the left (ya know, George Washington once slept there!)"

But my war injuries are healing and I'm giving serious thought to "what" I will do when I can get out and test the waters. It's probably going to be walking and some light work with weights, but that could be fun for me and my little one and her "growing" monster puppy.

I'm also looking forward to more progress after I incorporate more exercise.

Other updates, let's see. I still have some aches and pains. If any other bariatric surgery patients are tuned in, how do you deal with sitting for long periods of time and do you feel more uncomfortable in the tummy after long sits? If you have comments, check the "comments" link at the bottom of each post and send me your 2 cents.

What am I eating? Well, my family isn't ready to satisfy a lot of separate dietary needs and wants after moving into MoneyPitt 2004 a month ago. We are a mommy recovering from two surgeries and trying to lose weight, a daddy who sometimes gets into nervous eating and a 2-year-old Mac-N-Cheese addict. I eat what they eat minus a lot of carbs and I seldomly eat bread. I'm eating small amounts of rice and potatoes and when I need to wrap a sandwich in something, I have low-carb wraps and tortillas instead of bread. I'm sure when we recover in 2005 and stop eating the house, I will re-incorporate high protein supplements and other aids. Until then, lots of chicken, tuna, tilapia and cheese. Don't feel sorry for me, though, I've always eaten lots of chicken and cheese and fish was always more of a luxury, so it's all good. I'm not suffering about missing my favorite foods, I'm just concentrating on moderation.

I had a long period where I stopped taking my meds: No blood pressure or diabetes meds, no vitamins (nope, nothing, but painkillers!). I think the stress of the move helped raise my BP back into medicine-needing levels, but the lack of vitamins was just stupid on my part. Well, my falling hair and monumental muscle cramps are helping to remind me how important vitamins are. I did say I was learning, right? Well, I can be a bone-headed student at times.

I would love to hear from you all, especially by family, friends and other bariatric surgery pateints. The "comment" link at the bottom of this post is open to everyone.

Until next time, thanks for reading and thank you for your support.

Friday, December 03, 2004

I Did Take My Vitamins Today

I know it seems like a small thing, but I'm back to basics. I started training for a new part-time job, handled some business projects from home and found my vitamins.

I'm looking for the answers to all life's difficult questions and I keep forgetting that mismanaging this surgery isn't a good thing.

There's always something.

In my "gig of the week" I'll be teaching in an after school program for middle school students. Tonight, the lessons plans are calling.

Please note: Leave me a message, a comment or question by clicking on the little balloon or the "comment" link right under this post. I would love to hear from you!

Trying to get back on target

The NooMee meeting so sooo wonderful. It was festive and emotional at the same time. I've been reminded how blessed I am and inspired to get back into the swing of things.

I had an opportunity to talk to two women who have had the Lap Band surgery and they were incredibly encouraging. My good friend has lost 45 pounds in about the same amount of time and a new friend has lost almost 100 pounds in a year and a half. Gives me new hope that my 36 pounds is on the right path.

I haven't taken my vitamins in weeks and my falling hair is showing it. I didn't think I was losing enough weight to worry about vitamin deficiency. I guess I was wrong. I'm going to go on a search for vitamins and come back later and write some more.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

14 Weeks and 36 Drops in the Bucket

Hey everyone, it's official: I'm back and there's less of me to report about. I really have a lot to catch up on in the last month to month and a half. I know I can't cover all the details in one post, so I won't try.

Since my last post: My daughter turned 2, we adopted a puppy, I turned "older" (10/22), my wonderfully, supportive mother suffered a stroke, I quit my part time job in New Orleans (that I loved), We moved into our new house (lovingly called the 'money pit') and I had a second surgery. Wheez! Yup, that's it and for Thanksgiving, I was thankful for LORTAB!

No, not really.

I was thankful for a number of things. I'm very blessed and I know my life is seldomly 'dull,' if nothing else.

While in Super Doc's office today checking on a few pains, I got a weigh-in that really lifted my spirits. I didn't expect much after Thanksgiving, even though I didn't "go crazy" on turkey and dressing. I just haven't have the mental or physical energy to try very hard. I'm just in survival mode.

Well, I've lost a total of 36 pounds in the last 14 weeks and I realized I was 7 pounds away from a big (huge, sizable, hefty, massive -- meaningful) goal of mine to be under 300 pounds.

That's where the drops in the buckets come in. It's hard not to compare success rates, but everyone wants to be at the end of the process, not chipping away at the first mountain peak. It's embarassing in many ways, but inspiring in others, to say I would like to start 2005 weighing 200 and 'something.'

I choose the slower procedure and the MISI staff has been wonderful about telling me that I'm right on schedule or doing very well. Truthfully, I don't want the surgery that the gastric bypass patients had, but I do want their results I guess.

"Hello, my name is Fran...I had to shorten it when I lost 100 pounds and 30 dress sizes in the last 3 months..."

Yes, I am silly, but I want to hold up the "massively too big dress" now being used as the tent headquarters for the 5th Mechanical Division enroute to Iraq.

In all seriousness, I'm thankful for the 36 pounds and the village of support that has gotten me to this point -- Family, friends, MISI, NooMee, Vista and you wonderful folks who care enough to read and keep up with "BandAid: The ramblings of a crazy fat chick."

Please check back because we have a lot to discuss: food, career, stress, my hernia repair and my plans to kick this weight loss into high(er) gear. I have pictures to post and lots of experiences.

Tomorrow is the NooMee Christmas party: What ever will I wear?