Friday, October 27, 2006

Perspective: Riding Through the Storm

Create Your Own!

I spent most of yesterday in a storm -- literally. I'm at the ObesityHelp convention in Lexington after nearly an entire day watching grounded planes and seeing storm clouds go by. I found this journey so symbolic of my weight loss journey (and my life) that I didn't mind the delays, wet baggage and lack of sleep.

After a nearly two-hour delay in Baton Rouge, we headed out for Houston knowing that there was a monster storm hovering over most of southeast Texas. The storm was so big and dangerous, that the air traffic navigators were sending the planes on an "S" curve around it. This took nearly two more hours in the air. At maximum flying height, I discovered what it means to be taken out of a storm and allowed to ride side-by-side with it and view its beauty and force at the same time.

The pictures above show a storm the size of a mountain range. Lightning bolts and dark, rolling clouds put on one heck of a show. I took my camera out because I felt safe. Afterall, I had another persepective of this storm.

For two years, I've been riding in this storm. I get up, I get knocked back down, but I get up again. What some may see as slow weight loss progress, I choose to see as survival and life more abundantly.

The one thing I choose to remember about weighing 350 pounds is that life and death were daily considerations. I was not yet 40, but I had seen numerous surgeries, ICU units and buried babies whose coffins were little more than decorated shoe boxes. Life was good, but not abundant and there was litte hope for a long, happy existence.

Now, two years later, I love my size 18 jeans and fun-loving endurance, but most of all, I love the second chance that the Lord has extended to me.

Being removed from this storm for a moment of majesty, I viewed my progress and pain as a spectator. I see the challenge and I see the struggle, but I know I'm safe -- I'm only riding through the storm.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Jazzed Tuna Casserole: Test Kitchen Series

This is more a discussion about Dreamfields pasta than it is about Tuna Casserole. Many people in a low-carb routine just eliminate pasta completely because of the huge carb load that it carries. I'm hoping to show that the Dreamfields line gives us an opportunity to bring pasta back into our nutritional line ups.

Jazzed Tuna Casserole

2.5 cups of cooked macaroni
1 can Cream of Shrimp Soup
1 Can Cream of Mushroom Soup w/Roasted Garlic
2 Cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese
2 cups frozen peas and carrots
2 -6 oz Cans of Tuna (in water)
¼ Cup Toasted Onion Flakes
2 Tlbs Cilantro
2 Tlbs Parlsey
1 tsp Black Pepper

Boil macaroni and keep fairly firm. Drain and reserve.

In large, deep casserole dish mix soups, vegetables, seasonings and 2/3 of the cheese. Mix well. Drain and flake tuna. Add tuna and drained noodles. Mix well. Smooth top of casserole dish and sprinkle on remaining cheese. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes until ‘bubbly.’

This makes 8 servings (it’s a lot -- freeze it.)

*Nutritional summary uses regular pasta: 307 calories; 20 grams of protein and 28 carbs.

**Nutritional summary using Dreamfields pasta: 280 calories, 20 grams of protein and 9 grams of digested carbs.

Click here to see how the carb/digestable carbs work

Monday, July 31, 2006

Sauteed Spinach and Shrimp: Test Kitchen Series

Sautéed Spinach and Shrimp with Feta Crumbles

One 9 oz. bag of Baby Spinach
3 cups of Shrimp
1 cup of Feta Cheese crumbles
Crushed or powdered garlic
Juice of one Lime
2 Tbs of dried Cilantro
Salt, Pepper to taste
Non-stick cooking spray

Spray a deep sauce pan with a non-stick, non fat cooking spray. Add heat and add shrimp stirring often when it becomes hot. Add lime juice, garlic and cilantro to sautéing shrimp and continue to stir. When the shrimp first turn “pink,” add fresh spinach to the pan in thirds or until it all fits. Lower the heat and sauté until the spinach is “just tender,” but not over-cooked. Top each plated serving with 1-2 tablespoons of crumbled feta cheese. Makes four servings.

Nutritional summary: 204 calories, 25 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber and 5 carbohydrates.

Spinach is a great choice for the vegetable you eat “after” you have gotten your protein in. It has high water content, so it does crowd your pouch. It reduces quickly, but is obscenely high in vitamins and nutrients – including *more protein.* It is also a good source of Niacin, and a very good source of dietary fiber, protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Zinc, Copper and Manganese.

The meal shown is served with guacamole and a dab of fat free sour cream, adding 150 more calories, 3 more grams of fiber and about 2 more protein grams. While high in “heart-healthy fats,” the avocado is another power house of nutrients and taste.

This recipe was featured in "New Views," the newsletter of the bariatric support group New U. Thanks to Cindee for taking this picture of me as we went to cheer on our newest OH and New U member Bejai.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Celebration: 100th Band-Aid Post!

I’m shaking the dust off of my blog and celebrating Entry No. 100 in my chronicles of my journey to health and wellness. First, thank you from the bottom of my heart to all the medical professionals, online friends, prayer warriors and supporters who have stuck by me through thick and less-thick for almost two years now.

I’ve gone way, way too long without posting and I think it’s because I wanted so badly to post a new picture on my blog. I will probably never stop cringing when I see pictures of myself. If the camera adds 10 pounds to normal-weight folks, it must add at least 50 to those of us fighting our weight demons. Thanks to my bestest buddt, my bestest hubby and my bestest new angelette Cindee, I have new pictures that I’m not afraid to look at.

Gosh, where do all those chins come from??

If a picture says a thousand words, mine are shouting “YOU AREN’T THERE YET” in a chorus. But I’m not at all depressed about it because of the YET. It also speaks volumes to how far I’ve come.

If you were around in the beginning of the journey, you read that I started near 350 pounds and was not the healthiest bulb in the pack. There are about five certifiable diseases that qualify you for weight loss surgery. I think I had all of them, but one. Let’s see: Diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, degenerative back disease and I have danced with congestive heart failure and pulmonary edema after my sweet princess Cecilia was born.

I’m STILL a big chick, yes, but if you go down the list, I have normal blood sugars, I “should” take one medicine to control my blood pressure (down from 4, but boy, do I get mad/stressed), I don’t sleep with a CPAP machine any more and my back only hurts when I do something stupid. Some other ailments have gotten better. I have improved PCOS symptoms and the masses in my uterus and ovaries that I thought would kill me, for sure, have shrunk or disappeared.

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My faithful readers know that my biggest challenge has been non-lap band related. I am without a doubt, the HERNIA QUEEN. I had a hernia repair, got a staph infection, got the wound opened twice, had a hernia repair, had a hernia repair and this apast January, had a hernia repair. My props and unchanging gratitude go to SupaDoc Karl LeBlanc. (Side note, I’m writing this why traveling through the little town that my beloved SupaDoc was born. Really, this very second! Ok, truth be known, I’m eating Sunday lunch at a seafood restaurant there with my laptop on the table. Golly, people, the computer is clean!)

Anyhoo, (lunch was great, but not at all sinful), I think it's nothing short of a miracle that my bariatric surgeon was also a world renowned hernia specialist. Dude’s like a non-stop shop for "everything Frances." After seven surgeries, if I had an abdominal tattoo, it would read “KARL SCALPED HERE.” As it is, my precious princess thinks every scar or bo-bo means “Dr. DeBlanc” has been around. (What, your 3-year-old doesn't regularly talk about bariatric surgeons?)

Look: Dr. Cece!

My Lap Band device has done everything that it was supposed to. I eat less and it helps with that. When I eat junk, the band isn’t responsible – choice is still up to the patient. In May, we noticed that I had sprung a leak. That’s where the blog left off – “Poof, fill be gone!” Early this month, I got a good size fill to see how much time it would take to be empty again. Well, geez, wouldn’t ya know the leak went away and I was hurting to drink herbal tea at times, none the less, solid protein.

SupaDoc has a new fellow surgeon who laid claim to the leak clogging up when he did the fill under the watchful eye of his proctor. This master in training is from Alabama and is as cute as hound pup in a magnolia patch. He said, with his best ‘Bama twang, “That's right; I got sticky spit!” (--> a real keeper)

I’m a big advocate of bringing new surgeons into the bariatric field and I surely hope Dr. James Corder III decides to stick around in this field because those of us trapped by obesity’s pain need all the super docs we can get.

That super fill lasted a week and a half before I whimped out and asked for a slight unfill. I lost about 8 pounds during that time, but it wasn’t the prettiest thing in the world.

I’m about 15 pounds away from my milestone of 100 pounds loss. I would like to do it this month or near my two-year “banderversary.” Maybe I won’t make it. I’ve often said I wanted to get to be a “very fit” size 18, after reaching near a Size 32. Well, yesterday, I tried on and purchased some “snug” size 18 jean shorts. I’m in them without pain, but it’s not smooth enough to say I’m a Size 18. So, I guess I need to look at the inches and muscle mass more than the ‘evil scale.’

I’m not only eating, but craving more fresh vegetables than any other time in my life and unlike before, I know corn and potatoes shouldn’t count as vegetables. We shop for fresh veggies near the house and I’m always looking for new ways to experiment with spinach, zucchini, eggplant and avocadoes. (I am an avocado fiend!)

August is going to be a busy month on the Band-aid Blog. I’ve been saving up and I plan to start posting recipes and new healthy food choices starting tomorrow with my “Sauteed Spinach and Shrimp with Feta Crumbles.”

Stick around, check back or just use RSS to stay abreast on my progress and blessings. Thanks for caring and for reading.

When the whole world is new, anything is possible

Monday, May 08, 2006

Poof: Fill Be Gone!

Golly gee gang, I hate it when I'm right sometimes. I saw SupaDoc today and it was an over-all great visit. He really liked my tight little locks and he said it makes me look younger and thinner. I reminded him that I am in my 30s, after all (barely)

I told him I started working out a lot, had some pain and then took a break for a couple of weeks (well, for cramps, hives and unofficial bronchitis) and then I felt completely open like my band was empty. I told him it didn't spark any binges, but I knew I could pack away lots of food. However, I will PB if I eat too fast or dry, bulky stuff and I've power puked some Churches Chicken when my coughing was bad.

Anyhoo, he prepares the fill and had a little trouble, but got in on second try (no fluro for me and usually no problem). He said he was putting in 1 cc because the band was empty. Poof!

Ok, I've lost it all in six weeks. When should I be concerned about this fluid disappearance? I'm starting to wonder if I should go back to ab work, but I need to work my muscles if I'm ever going to score plastic surgery and freedom for skin flaps.

Yes, I am prepared to look on the bright side!

In these 6-7 weeks, I've reduced my body fat by 5 percentage points. This extra gained muscle, plus the late-day weighing, put 4 pounds on the scale. This seems like "statistical voodoo," but the report says I've lost 10 pounds of fat in this period of time. So I'm still approaching a comfortable Size 20. I had zipper failure in the 20 pants and so I wore a size 32 shell which fits like a tunic with a size 24 skirt, with a big *country* safety pin looping it in place on my waist.

It's not everyone's winning cards, but it's the hand I've been dealt and I'm going to play it.

Focus: Fills, Fat and Frances

It's 2 a.m. and I'm staying up from fear of not wanting to wake after much too little sleep. Yes, drugs are bad, but I'm clean (ier than I've been in years).

I have an appointment with SupaDoc today and I'm so tempted to purge in some way to show some progress in the last six weeks. I lost some weight, started exercising a lot, hurt my ab (just one left) and then it's been up and down a few pounds and I'm sure I will be at or right above my same weight. I'm banking I at least gained some muscle.

I don't feel much restriction and I'll be looking to see if my lonely 1 cc fill has gone South on me. I had lost 1/2 cc on my last visit.

My challenge is to deal with these plateaus as stages instead of the end of the world. For the last couple of weeks, I've been juggling a contract job, a part time teaching job, a new full-time job and the finalist interviews for a potential "dream" job.

Ok, since I also have a preschooler, the lack of progress last month looks much better. I guess I'll just count my blessings -- I will have money coming in this month and I'll show up for my fill in size 20 pants.

I'm so easy.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Life Is Pain -- Or Is It?

"Life is pain, you just get used to it." -- Spoken by Gina Davis in "The Long Kiss Goodnight"

Some might think all mantras are good: "No guts, no glory," "Slow and steady wins the race," but "Life is pain, you just get used to it?"

I didn't think it was a problems until my 3-year-old ran into the computer room and and screamed the new family motto to her father. What is life, Cece? "LIFE IS PAAAAAINNN, Daddy!"

I'm trying to remember the word my sweet husband used to describe my teaching my baby this valuable lesson about life ... MORBID, yup that's it.

But my life is pain and I'm drawn like a moth to flame by the movie that helped me to see that if pain was a naturally-occurring part of your life, you could conquer it by excepting it. "Sam/Charly," in the movie, is a tough-as-nails assassin who has developed a life from her cover identity and is now your regular PTA mom raising a young daughter. She can take a bullet, spit it out and carve her initials in it, so when her daughter whines about her broken ankle, she has a serious flashback and tells the kid "Life is pain, you just get used to it!"

Cece and I talk a lot about the surgeries and she's fascinated by the scars and marks. Several weeks ago, she walked up to my arm and noticed an old burn scar. Pacifier hanging out of one side of her mouth (Yes, I know, she's too old), she grabbed by arm and exclaimed "Who did that ... did Docta DeBlanc do that?"

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Oh, boy. How do you explain to a child with a pacifier that SupaDoc, Dr. Karl LeBlanc, isn't responsible for every "bo-bo" on mommy's body. And duh, how did she know that he was Dr. Frankenstein, anyway? Mommy's got a lot of bo-bos, but Docta DeBlanc has only helped make mommy better.

Now, when you have to explain open wounds, scars, abscesses and recurrent times that "mommy can't pick you up" to a preschooler, you might opt for an easier mantra "Life is pain." (or you might seek family counseling and avoid whatever trauma I'm inflicting on this baby.)

"Life is pain" has worked for me until I started working my abdominals this week. I've not had much of an exercise routine in this weight loss journey because of the six surgeries in 14 months thing. I was pretty excited and took Foxy's Fitness Center's Buz Blanchard up on his offer to help me develop a strategy for core strengthening and rebuilding my tattered abdominals.

My hat is off to Buz and the awesome organization at Foxy's. I was happy just to be back in the gym and working with a trainer like a normal person, but it's a classy environment to boot and Buz had a heart for where I had been and my desire to go "some place else."

We went through some exercises that are like "abdominals on training wheels." No machines, no weights, just basic and careful abdominal and core strengthening exercises and stretching. Here lies the kicker "Don't do anything that hurts," Buz said, "you know the difference between a muscle burn and something ripping, right?"

Uh, Hmmm... Life is pain?

I went home all excited and the next day I rode my bicycle twice and showed off my new tummy exercises to Scott. Later that night, I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach. No problem. Kept going.

The next day, back on the bike, back to the floor exercises afterward. Geez, those lower abs do complain loudly. I could barely do the leg lifts that day because of my old friend, pain. Life is pain and I've gotten used to it, but pain is bad while exercising and I can't discern the difference -- something always hurts!

I finally found something that I feared -- regression. What if I tear something, develop another hernia, have a (eeeek!) another abdominal surgery? Pain, I can live with. Surgeries are finally wearing my nerves thin. I don't wanna go back.

Fear is paralyzing. Well, temporarily. I forced myself to recall all SupaDoc's advice and all the times "pain" led to something that wasn't a good thing. Like a scared little kid, I almost wanted to see SupaDoc just to get the reinforcement that everything was fine. I called and left a message that I "missed" him, but I declined an appointment for expert "hand-holding."

I finally decided (after a one-day pain break) that I feared a lack of progression more than regression and I wasn't going to be "buff" without a little pain, but I could learn to discern good pain (muscle burn) from bad pain (guts being ripped apart) if I gave it enough time. I'm now concentrating on each word and description that Buz gave in my session with him. I'm blessed to find another expert to help me in this journey to wellness.

Everyday, I'm working my upper and lower abdominals and stretching before and after my bike rides and exercising. Buz also helped me see that my water goals were still missing the mark. I was drinking 96-100 ounces a day, but 130 is on mark for my specific weight. This has even helped me with Scott's intake. He was almost to 64 ounces a day when I had to break it to him that his weight dictates (gasp) 180 ounces a day. I thought if he could do 80 that would be great, but he had a 150-ounce day and his energy level was remarkably noticeable. (and appreciated)

Tomorrow ends the first day of the two week challenge on the Lap Band message board. I've not been on the scale, but I've lost more than an inch in my waist alone after I learned to move pass my fears while still being careful. No, I'm not buff yet, but I do feel I know path to get there.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

I Know What I Wanna Be When I Grow Up


Yes, you heard it right. After a year of losing the same 10-15 pounds over and over again, I'm healthier, not facing any surgeries (cross fingers, toes, eyes) and I have received my Damascus Road instructions and I feel incredibly led to be buff.

I never wanted to be thin, so this is no great surprise to some. Many goal weights can be debated because being too heavy or too thin can raise serious issues. I just decided that a "buff Frances" is something that everyone can live with.

The picture at the right is my attempt to visual where I wanted to be. NO, THAT'S NOT IT. I couldn't find a happy median between saggy-thin and still carrying a hefty load. I did go looking and after bypassing too many naked BBWs and scary-thin folks at their "medical chart weights," I decided to post (mangle) this one as my way of saying "Frances wants muscles, repaired abs and some "junk in the trunk." (Ok, if you don't know that one, I'm not going to be the one to explain it)

After several stagnant months, the scale started moving and I've gotten on and managed to stay on my bike fairly regularly. Building endurance is pretty empowering and I guess I started thinking I could "leap tall buildings." (Shh, yes, I know I'm 5'5")

I brought this bike three newspapers and more than 13 years ago. I'm finally getting some miles out of it. Yes, those are my real legs.

It's pretty cocky for someone like me to be "choosy" about the improved body I'm trying to build. I prefer to call it blessed. I'm starting to get kinda accustomed to the thought of "life more abundantly: ya know having your cake and eating it too"

No, I don't want cake. I want --MORE -- dare I say, I want it all. I want to eat well, play well, work well and be well. I don't know where that will fall on the scale. I don't think it's 130 pounds and no offense to anyone there. I see some things I want to keep and some things I would like to donate to Good Will. (Pick up the extra skin flaps NOW!!!)

I'm sure I will get back to food on this blog, but I'm in a muscle-movement mode. I want a normal percentage of body fat-to-muscle and I don't care as much what that means on the scale.

I joined a 2-Week Challenge for lap bandsters on I'm ready to focus on my body for the first time in a long time. I got the green light -- no hernias, no masses, less pain, less swelling (keeps me humble) and spring time is amongst us.

Here's my plan for the next two weeks:

  • 3-5 Miles biking a day
  • 96-100 oz. of water a day
  • Daily ab and arm work (tattered tummy might hate me for this -- 40 crunches, ouch)
  • Praise and prayer stretching (Power Palates?)
  • Evict the scale (weigh on Mondays)
  • Keep measurements
  • Set appointments with new PCP and AB personal trainer
I started today at about 268. I would like to reach 260. I've ridden the bike twice by 4:45 p.m. I'm on my 72nd ounce of water. I called the manager and trainer at Foxy's and he will see me in two hours ... yeah, baby!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

NSV: Non-scale Victories

I keep pushing myself to get behind the camera from time to time because it gives me a chance to evaluate and reflect. I still don't like pictures -- especially those with no makeup and wild hair -- but even I can't deny that things have changed. The top picture shows me at the beginning of the journey and today.

My husband and I just came back from a true "countryside bike ride." The scale is about where it was last year at this time, but I have built muscle and endurance. I've had a lot of surgeries, gain some weight and then went up and down the same 10 pounds for months. My muscle mass has gone from 42 percent to almost 53 percent. The muscle weighs more than fat, but it's not a lot of fun to say "Hey, look how much muscle I have" as opposed to "I've lost 100 pounds!"

We biked about 8 miles on GRAVEL and offroad. I've never biked offroad and it's some serious workout. My husband decided when it was time to turn around and go home. It's a pretty spring day in Louisiana and I spent some time in the woods with the man I love (and he got some exercise also). This could have never happened at 350 pounds, but I did try from time to time. I'm thankful for NSVs because without them, I would feel like the entire year was a complete failure.

I've not exercised much or gotten many adjustments to my lap band in the past year and I'm hoping all that is about to change. I do think I still eat too much, but my choices are so much better than they were before.

This is my Mushroom Chicken over Penne Pasta. I take pictures of food more than I do myself. At first it was for my future cookbook, now, I use them to help enforce portion control -- "I ate this much!"

The pasta dish was a little bland at first. Today, I reheated it and added a few peppers and some hot spices. Much better. The most important part of the meal was to use Dreamfield low-carb pasta. This stuff is great with 7 grams of "absorbed carbs" instead of 41 grams and it tastes great. It's not a weekly meal around here, but I have used elbow, linguini and the penne Dreamfields. This stuff is the bomb!

Tomorrow, I'm going to weigh and again consider a lap band fill. Anything under 270 is my goal. I'm ready to eat less and exercise more. When I reach 250, I will be 100 pounds under my highest weight of 350 pounds. I would like to be there by the summertime.

My goal of clothes that fit and a new hairstyle can come much sooner. My closet ranges from 32 to 22 and last week I wore a size 32 top with a size 22 pants. I'm pretty cheap and I only brought the size 22 pants cause big baggy pants are only cool if you're a rap singer (and NOT my age).

Note to Scott: Thank you for doing this for me. Personally it still hurts to see pictures of myself cause I don't see all that double chin when I look in the mirror. What the pictures do is give me comparison and hope. I have to do just a little bit better than this and I will never forget the role you played in reinventing me. Love-Frances

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Slow Roast Chicken and Sauteed Veggies: Test Kitchen Series

I truly love chicken and I like it cooked just about every way imaginable. Chicken can create a challenge for a lot of weight loss surgery postops and many write off chicken all together. Well, just like a marriage, I couldn't let chicken go without at least attempting to get some counseling to keep us together.

Problem: As chicken cooks, it can get dry and stringy. Baked chicken, fried chicken, grilled chicken -- it can all get uncomfortable if it goes "bad" in the process. Most lap band postops gravitate toward cooking solid proteins in a liquid environment (uh, sauces, creams, soups, juices) to keep is moist and tender. I give props to Lap Bander and fellow Bayou Babe Simone J. for saying she had stock in barbecue sauce. I planned to cook this chicken in barbecue sauce, but I didn't have any when I started cooking. Enter my budget-minded solution -- spaghetti sauce.

This chicken is first of all dark meat. Yes, fattier, but more moist and more tender for that same reason. I oven-cooked it covered with heavy foil at only 350 degrees so it would hold its moisture and cook through to the bone without leaving the surface tough and dry.

We are pairing the chicken with a sauteed veggie mix of zucchini, purple onions and red and yellow bell peppers. This mix is vitamin and water rich with extremely low calorie counts. Cooking them and keeping them crispy and crunchy is the hardest part.

Slow-Roast Chicken Leg Quarters

5 chicken leg quarters
1 1/2 cups of spaghetti sauce
Herbs and seasonings: salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, cilantro, garlic and parsley
2 teaspoons of Land of Lakes 'Lite' Butter (not as unhealthy as you might think)
Parmesan cheese (optional on top of cooked chicken)

Rub and massage the butter stuff on the leg quarters. This will help the surface remain soft and hold the seasonings better. I placed the quarters on a glass baking dish before applying the herbs and spices.

Apply a firmly placed sheet of foil on the top (or a lid if you are all "fancy") and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven. Bake covered for 2 and a half hours.

Pour in spaghetti sauce, barbecue sauce or just plain tomato sauce if you want to save even more calories. Put lid (duh, foil) make on top and cook for another 45 minutes to an hour. It's so soft and tender that fine chewing will not be a challenge at all.

Sauteed zucchini and Bells

2 small zucchini
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1/2 purple onion
2 teaspoons of Land of Lakes Lite
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Seasoned with black pepper, cilantro and parsley

Chop the vegetables and place in a heated pan with olive oil and Land of Lakes Lite. Season as it cooks. Saute until cooked, but still crunchy if possible.

Ah, time to eat. The chicken was tender and surrendered right off the bone. The fresh veggies offer an inviting taste and crunch. The rest of the family had pasta with this meal.

The calorie and protein count is pretty decent. The chicken dish has about 350 calories and 35 grams of protein. I added more calories to what Calorie-Count estimates to compensate for the Land O Lakes and sauce. Take the skin off for an ever greater calorie savings (but I would suggest "after" cooking if you are a lap band postop). I added a few extra grams of protein by sprinkling Parmesan cheese on my finished chicken.

zucchini has about 1/4 of the Vitamin C you need daily in one serving. It also has about 20 calories and a gram of protein (woohoo!). It has other vitamins and iron. I'm new to zucchini consumption and I can't believe how much I like it. Fill up on a big ole bowl of zucchini and you have expended less than 100 calories even if cooked in oil or butter.

Bell peppers are listed as one of the world's healthiest foods on one health nut Web site. It says: "Want to color your life healthy? Brightly colored bell peppers, whether green, red, orange or yellow, are rich sources of some of the best nutrients available. To start, peppers are excellent sources of vitamin C and vitamin A (through its concentration of carotenoids such as beta-carotene), two very powerful antioxidants."

Vitamins A, C, K, E -- you name it, these puppies have it. It also is a "very good" source of dietary fiber and a cup of bell peppers is about 25 calories.

I think this was a yummy meal, even if hubby added salt to everything. I don't cook with a lot of salt any more and I think I totally eliminated it from some of these items. I think this meal costs me about 400 calories and had about 40 grams of protein in it. Earlier, I had about 15 grams of protein from milk and I will have more chicken for dinner. This day should hold about 80+ grams of protein and I'm well under 1000 calories before dinner.

Any comments or suggestions to this meal would be appreciated.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Shrimp Salad Entrees: Test Kitchen Series

I was the type of kid who never wanted to achieve something until someone told me it was out of my reach. Fresh and raw vegetables can be a real challenge after weight loss surgery. The stomach capacity is smaller and food must be chewed well and slowly. Lots of people give up on fresh vegetables, but I know there's healing power in garden produce so I'm resolving to study, plan and eat more fresh, raw vegetables.

The following two salads are topped with jumbo shimp to marry the best of lean protein with the fiber and vitamin power of fresh vegetables. (Why the emphasis on fiber?)

Herb-Sauteed Shrimp Salad
1 Cup shrimp
Herbs and spices: Cilantro, Dill, parsley, pepper, salt
Olive oil
Romaine lettuce mix
1 tomato
1/4 cup of carrots
Apple cider vinegar
1 oz. fat-free American cheese

Heat a sauce pan with small amount of extra virgin olive oil. Place shrimp, spaced out, in hot oil. Add herbs and spices and cook until shrimp are pink, but still firm.

Arrange salad items already sprinkled with vinegar. Place shrimp on top of crisp salad and put cheese on top.

Lemon-Cilantro Shrimp Salad
2 cups of shrimp
Olive oil
1/3 cup of lemon juice
Romaine lettuce mix
1/2 cup of carrots (shredded)
1/2 avocado (diced)
Apple cider vinegar
Cheese was optional

Heat a sauce pan with small amount of extra virgin olive oil. Place shrimp, spaced out, in hot oil. Add lemon juice and cilantro and cook until shrimp are pink, but still firm.

Arrange salad items already sprinkled with vinegar. Place shrimp on top of crisp salad and put cheese on top. Makes two servings

I'll be the first to admit I'm exprimenting. The carrots are present in each recipe because I have a huge bag of baby carrots and everyone in the house has been munching on carrots except the cats. The carrots are all about texture, crunch and fiber. They contain a big percentage of natural sugars, but the calorie price is still low considering they pack lots of vitamins and healing.

Avocadoes are incredible fruits (or vegetables, you tell me). They contain a high amount of fat, but it's the type of fat associated with a healthy heart. They provide fiber and protein at the same time as well as having 60 percent more potassium than bananas. And you weight loss surgery, postops, it's also high in Vitamin E (Helps hair, nails, scarring, etc.)

Shrimp's a little pricey, but we have a good selection of it down here on the Gulf Coast. It's an awesome lean protein with about 60-80 calories a serving with very little fat and no carbohydrates. It's also got a decent amount of iron and other vitamins. The biggest minus would be for folks who have high cholesterol levels. This may come as a shock if you follow this blog, but high cholesterol is the one very common health problem I don't have. I will be doing the shrimp salad variations with crunchy vegetables more often.

Oatmeal-Yogurt Variations: Test Kitchen Series

I'm really starting to love this recipe because it lays a good foundation for protein and fiber and leaves lots of room for personal choices and customizing and altering it for one's particular needs.
(Why the emphasis on fiber?)

I've stepped out of the box to offer my first variation of my classic Oatmeal Yogurt Crunch. I've substituted the slivered almonds in the recipe for a 1/2 cup of Kashi Go-Lean on top of each serving.

Here's what you are left with:
  • About 33-40 grams of protein -- I used Juice Plus Complete powder for 13 grams, oatmeal(4), yogurt (11 grams) and 1/2 serving of Kasha (5) ... Your protein serving might have 20 grams or more of protein.
  • Up to 10 grams of fiber -- I used juice plus powder for 4 grams, oatmeal (2), Kashi (4) and a little from the fruit ... Your fresh fruit, raisins might have more fiber.
  • Vitamins from real food!
  • PAIN IN YOUR JAW -- OK, this is a lot of chewing and I can only chew on one side right now since my last surgery. I'm going back to almonds folks. This means only about 28-30 grams of protein, but I do get to eat lunch and dinner. I do plan to use Kasha Go-Lean as a hunger eliminator between meals (I don't get that much), or I guess I could try it with milk (a breakfast cereal, I'm a genius!). Here's a Kashi commerical and info site.

Can you please join me with your variations to Oatmeal-Yogurt Crunch? A good Web buddy Mary has already shared some great ideas involving raisins and dried fruit.

I share my recipes, creations because I get a lot of good ideas in return. And hopefully, we can spare each other experiences that might not be "ideal" like avoid the Kasha Go-Lean if you have dental issues.

Please leave comments below with your variations. Your turn ...

Sunday, February 05, 2006

I Resolve: Three Week Postop (X6)

I'm on the other side of three weeks postop from my multiple hernia repair. It's unrelated to the lap band, but all related to my life and journey. Through the pain of recovery, it's hard to tell what got better and what got worse. It's been a busy few weeks of happenings.

I Don't Care Update: I probably had many folks thinking I left my mind in Plaquemine, La. I will never forget Reality Doc and his part in the last 17 months. Everyone needs a dose of reality paired with support to keep focused on the big picture. My internist was that support and direction and I'll always appreciate that. My last message to him was directed to his staff: "Please tell the staff that I'm not the one that dropped that trailer on their sister. I was on the other side of Oz at the time. You've been great. I wish you well."

Hernia pain update: I hurt, therefore, I am. The pain got better and then it got worse. No matter what direction it goes, I'm reassured that hernia repairs are just extremely painful -- It's gonna hurt. I chased my little dynamo at a museum opening yesterday and actually rode a few miles on my bicycle this week (OUCH!). I guess I'm going to live.

Swallowing pain, eating update: I was blessed to spend time with a new doctor. My beloved SupaDoc is in Europe saving the slopes from obesity (I know he's working hard.) A doctor doing a fellowship with his group made me feel both old and extremely special. Doctors are getting younger, but he's too cool to be given the original title of "BabyDoc." He took a serious interest in my discomfort and made an effort to bring some relief. I've tried a medicine that would have eased the pain after swallowing if I had esophagus ulcers. I also had a test to monitor my swallowing mechanisms. Jury's still out, but we have ruled some things out. DocDetermined, MissionDoc or just SweetheartDoc -- I just can't decide ...

Weight-loss update: I think I said I didn't care. Ok, I lied. I still "WANT" to lose weight. I just don't want to lose perspective on the big picture and a balanced way of looking at life and food. After surgery, I gained about 10 pounds. As of last week, I had lost those fluid pounds and about 10 more. I am 80 pounds down from my highest weight of 350. Getting to 250 would be sweet. A hundred pounds rings well in anyone's ear no matter how they got there.

I Resolve: I want it all. I want to lose weight at a healthy rate. I want to eat from every food group without dependence on chemicals and synthetic "Soylent Green." I want many more days running behind pink power girl in the park. I want to ride my bicycle and build muscle as I lose fat. I don't want to be truly "thin," but I think I can be buff. It may not be easy, that's why I resolve.

Tuna-N-Friends Wrap: Test Kitchen Series

I've listed a similar recipe using grilled chicken. I was about to go that route, but I needed something a little softer. Here's the compromise. I had to say "Tuna-N-Friends" cause this sandwich-like thing has everything but the kitchen sink in it. There's so much protein and some good veggie content that I thought this was worth mentioning again.

This traditional sandwich contents are put in a wrap because it's easier to chew and swallow for a lot of weight-loss surgery postops. I used to have a lot of problems with sliced bread and sandwiches. It's about 50-50 for me now and I've recently started buying Nature's Own Light (honey wheat) for me and my family. It has 40 calories per slice and is full of protein and fiber.

Anyhoo, for this meal, we used a Herb-garlic wrap made by Mission. Other Mission wraps I've used include Spinach-Herb and Sun-dried Tomato. They have about 200 calories a wrap, but they are big enough to make two servings if you can't that much on bread.

Tuna-N-Friends Wrap

1 flavored wrap
Canned tuna (in water)
Tomato slices
Chopped onions
Cheese slice
Avocado slices
2 slices of bacon (hubby smiles, but I guess optional)

Place wrap on flat surface and load it up in the middle. Wrap it up like one would a burrito with the ends not spilling out. Press the wrap in heated, pan-sprayed pan.

Those people who have problems with "doughy" bread will benefit from a toasted, crispy wrap.

This wrap is a big, filling meal. I've shared it and left half for another meal. Even if you leave the bacon out, you get protein from the wrap, the tuna, cheese and avocado slice. Many people shy away from avocadoes because of the fat content, but they contain healthy fats which are heart-friendly. A serving should not exceed half an avocado, however.

Hot, crispy and full of vitamins and protein. Enjoy.

Monday, January 30, 2006

You Heard it Right, I Don't Care

It's been nearly three weeks since my last surgery (seven in 16 months) and I'm trying to convince myself that I don't care.

I lost Reality Doc today.

For those of you who read the blog, Reality Doc is my internist and SupaDoc is my weight loss surgeon. I adore SupaDoc and his skills are unmatched, but it takes a village to keep me alive and Reality Doc has always been the "face reality" part of the team. He's not a big advocate of the lap band, but he's always been a big advocate of Frances. After the staph infection, I couldn't see how I could continue to fight all my health problems and still struggle to lose nearly 200 pounds.

I liked the challenge of one day showing Reality Doc that the lap band could work for me. In the meantime, he kept me alive. My blood pressure, diabetes, anxiety (hang nails, you name it), didn't go away like wimps after weight loss surgery. They put up quite a fight and I always felt I needed a good PCP (personal care physician) to help me see the "big picture" of my health.

The staph infection marked a big change in my life and health. I lost my insurance between surgeries to open and debreed my wound and I've been at the mercy of a public health plan ever since. Medicaid assigned me to a doctor who has decided to stop taking new patients and the plan won't pay for visits to Reality Doc.

A few weeks ago, I had multiple hernias repaired in my abdominal wall. The pain and complications were getting the best of me, so I decided to throw up the white flag to get my blood pressure and anxiety in check and make sure a gash left in my mouth isn't becoming infected.

The doctor’s a pretty cool dude, but he’s surrounded by the “hounds of hell” masquerading as clerks, receptionists and nurses in his office. I’ve never had a “hello” or any greeting since losing my insurance and the loud whispers usually start while I’m in the waiting room. I got called back today before the inquisition started, but apparently the “free-loader” alert sounded right after and I was surrounded by three hounds who seemed puzzled why I had “no” insurance. “We can’t accept your Medicaid and we can’t accept your cash,” they protested. I assured them that the doctor knew this, but agreed to see me because I was having a problem. “That would amount to a ‘free’ visit,” shout whispered one of the women. I insisted on not leaving, so they put me in an open room to see what the doctor’s wishes were. The uproar in the office continued at a low roar and if I didn’t know any better, I would have thought a serial killer was visiting.

“He’ll see you,” the nurse said, “but just this one time,” she warned. She listened to my issues and complications after surgery and then said it would take her a while to find a cuff large enough for my arm. Mind you, this office sees weight loss surgery patients and saw me when I weighed 350 pounds. Bat wings aside, I’m sure my arms should have shrunk some with the rest of me, but the “large enough” cuff never surfaced.

I sat in my little room (with the door open) and watched a parade of patients go by and the office chat actually moved off the free-loader at spitting’s distance of the desk. I never got weigh and my blood pressure was never taken. I became “Large Invisible Black Woman.” After this continued for 45 minutes, I was certain that this wasn’t going to change unless I created a scene and thus farther elevating my blood pressure and anxiety. The lap band surgery must work miracles because no one blinked as “Large Invisible Black Woman” just slipped away, passed the desk and left the office.

I still appreciate all Reality Doc has done for me, I just realize that's not a good environment for a patient suffering from high blood pressure an anxiety.

I don’t feel like binge-eating or drowning my sorrows in chocolate sauce. Until I can see past the pain, I just don’t care about pounds, inches and cute little blue jeans. That may seem like blasphemy to the weight loss faithful, but when my journey to wellness gets tough, I refuse to just lament on the usual “fat-girl” issues. Wellness is still a goal, but I feel the need to focus on non-scale issues.

Eating is very painful right now. I can only chew on one side of my mouth and every bite swallowed is often followed by pain and discomfort. I’ve had at least two people tell me that on the bright side, I’m losing a lot of weight. Nope, it doesn’t work that way. I retained after the last surgery and I’m just standing still for the most part after that water weight is balanced. Hey, I forgot, I really don’t care. (Right now. Smirk)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Coconut and Chicken Soup: Test Kitchen Series

I’ve been experimenting again! Scott and I found ourselves with a free evening in Natchez, Miss., lately and took an evening stroll looking for some inviting grub. I’ve been on the “All Sushi” diet for quite some time and we found a sushi and Thai place called Planet Thailand.

Not only did I find a nice selection of sushi rolls, but we also had a bowl of warm and inviting Thai Coconut and Chicken Soup. I was so intrigued by this “gumbo of the East,” that decided that I had to bring it home to my little Louisiana kitchen.

I did my research and found a recipe and then went on a search to find the ingredients. While getting the fixing for sushi ala Spencers, we also got a few items for the soup. The following recipe is slightly altered. First, I’ve not found lemon grass, but I have found a Thai curry paste that contains lemon grass. I felt like the one I had before had a rich, fresh, green taste, so I’ve added fresh chopped parsley and cilantro (Thai gumbo, here we come!)

This isn’t a rich, thick soup. It’s incredibly thin considering the punch it packs. It fits my taste and soft, thin food needs right now. I hope you enjoy a bowl of your own soon.

Thai Coconut and Chicken Soup

1 14 oz. can of coconut milk
10-12 ounces of chicken broth
½ pound diced chicken
½ cup chopped parsley
½ cup chopped cilantro
1 tsp. cayenne or crushed red pepper
1 tsp. Red Curry Paste (or lemon grass and more pepper)
1 tsp chopped ginger or powdered ginger
3 green onions
Salt to taste
Veggies (lots of room for your taste):
1 can whole baby corn
1-2 cans of mushrooms (I liked straw mushrooms, but small caps OK)

I made my own chicken broth, so I let the parsley and cilantro cook down with the chicken.
When the chicken is cooked and herbs are tender, add coconut milk, red pepper, curry paste (or lemon grass) and ginger.

Bring to a roaring boil, then add the veggies of choice and chopped green onions. Lower heat and slimmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring just cause it smells sooooo good. Add a couple tsp of salt, taste and then adjust for your preference.

Serve hot and enjoy!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Test Kitchen Series: Oatmeal-Yogurt Crunch

My oatmeal breakfast dish usually makes 5-6 servings for me. I make it early in the week and eat on it all week. I use fruit that doesn't turn brown and mushy, so it looks good for a while. I've had it with bananas and the problem is it's brown after the first day.

Here's how I usually make this stuff:

Oatmeal-Yogurt Crunch
2 cups plain, low-fat yogurt
1 cup plain, rolled oats (raw and toasted if I find them)
1 can of mandarin oranges
1 can of pineapple chunks (tidbits, crushed -- depending on what I can process)
1/4 cup of almond slivers
1 serving of protein supplement per serving *right before* serving

I mix the yogurt, oats and fruit in a big bowl I purchased just for this purpose. I left it sit overnight. In the morning, I add the almonds and fold them in the mixture. I put a scoop of vanilla protein powder in each bowl right before serving.


  • I sometimes have to loosen the protein powder so the dish can be smooth and soft. I've made a protein paste out of more yogurt, milk or even water on different occassions.
  • Other fruit I've used includes peaches and bananas.
  • This keeps very well in a sealed container for a week.
  • When I'm having trouble with "chunky" stuff, I just keep taking stuff out. Without the fruit and nuts, this is actually a great mushy.

Depending on what type of yogurt and nuts I used, this full recipe is made to include about 230 calories a bowl and can have from 25-35 grams of protein. It's gotta a lot of fiber ... a lot of fiber. There's protein all the ingredients except the fruit. I use fresh fruit or fruit packed in water or juice so it's a good source of vitamins.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

State of The Frances Report

It seems like forever since I've posted a State of the Frances address. Ok, here goes:

I survived my second Christmas with the band with no major overeating because I threw up twice during Christmas dinner. This Yakfest didn't surprise me. Eating has been difficult and sometimes swallowing is like taking a jab from a bull elephant. After everyone left my parents, I got into the leftovers, found two baked potatoes, mashed and creamed, skins and all, and mixed my brother's shrimp Alfredo remnants to make shrimp and potato soup. Got some protein and it stayed down.

I'm 16 months into my lap band surgery. I'm stuck on about 70 pounds lost and having my sixth hernia-related surgery a week from today (Jan. 11). I love the band and the lifestyle agrees with me, but when I started going on the surgery/swelling roller coaster, the scale wasn't very kind. Whatever!

I don't think I should change my eating habits or start starving myself. I'm concentrating on recovering from these recurrent hernias (***Not related to weight loss surger ***) and when that time comes, I'm sure the weight loss will continue.

I wasn't able to exercise much my first year, but I've been on my bike regularly since October and I take my preschooler to daycare 4 miles RT about 2-3 times a week. My bike has a trailer, the kid is 40 pounds and the abdominal hernia is quite noticeable. (Hint: That's it on the exercise folks; I tried a crunch in the doctor's office and that's OUT!).

For those of you who don't know the story, I was banded in August 2004, had a hernia repair in November and had two surgeries to debreed a staph infection in late February. I had two open hernia repairs in March and May. Next week, I will have my fourth hernia repair and sixth hernia-related surgery.

My attitude is chemically adjusted, but still ranges from "I'm OK" to "COULD SOMEBODY JUST SHOOT ME, ALREADY."

All my clothes are way too big and then sometimes snug around my tummy. I'm always packing at least one huge fluid collection near my mid-section, so without all that swelling, I'm not sure if I've lost weight or not. My pre-surgery clothes were 26-30 and now I'm in 22s with a cute little pot belly. (not!)

I do know that I hurt and eating is extremely difficult with abdominal swelling. I would love to have a panni removal now, but we all know that's reserved for people at or near goal. So, until then, I will continue to carry it around in a wheel barrow.

Good news: The lap band has survived the surgeries, infections and swelling and should be able to continue its job when my body is really to work with the tool.

I have a ton of stuff to add to my blog, so I think I'll take a second to do that also.

Lucky Surgery Seven (with the same loveable SupaDoc--pray for him) is Jan. 11.

I'm already riding my bike and I WILL play tennis before 2006 is over.