Saturday, February 26, 2011

My Journey to Weight Loss Surgery (VSG)

Being overweight my entire life I didn't seriously consider weight loss surgery (WLS) until February 2009. My mom had mentioned it over the years and I always thought it was too extreme. It wasn't that I thought it was, "the easy way out," like many people do. It was more of the fact that I knew how much would be asked of me and thought I could lose the weight on my own.

The turning point wen I first considered WLS was when my mom brought a packet of information home from the hospital. I admit I was like most people and didn't fully grasp what weight loss surgery was, I was thinking Carnie Wilson and stomach stapling.

After reading the packet of information I was open to gastric banding and called to attend an informational session at a local surgeon's office. I was actually so determined about lap band that I remember trying to arrange everything while I was out of town. I have Kaiser so I was calling them to check on coverage and their people didn't even know what bariatrics were, I scheduled the informational session, I was busy and determined.

I usually research things thoroughly but barely had a chance to while I was away. I went to the informational session and fell in love with the program, the surgeons, and after receiving more information decided I was all for the RNY Gastric Bypass. I went home and scoured the internet for all I could find.

Long story short, Kaiser does cover WLS but since it is a self-managing HMO you need to go through them. I had my heart set on the local surgeon, but couldn't get financing. So here's my story with Kaiser...
  • February 2009. Was told there was no bariatrics program
  • March 30th. Received first inkling that there was a bariatrics program but not minimum qualifications
  • April 9th. Called Kaiser, got bounced around to multiple locations and was told they didn't know what bariatrics was. Finally given number to head of Options program for Orange County
  • April 5th. Spoke to head of Options and scheduled the pre-Options seminars
  • May 14th. Attended bariatrics seminar
  • May 18th. Attended weight loss seminar
  • July - December. Participated in Options
  • January 7th. Consult with  KP surgeon and scheduled surgery
  • March 24th. Surgery date
 So why am I just now getting surgery? Kaiser switched from using an outside surgery group in San Diego (Pacific Bariatric) to bring everything in house with general surgeons. The Kaiser surgeons all went to great schools, but I just didn't like how my surgeon didn't make eye contact, talked down to me, and performs other surgeries on a regular basis.

At the time I was losing weight on my own and felt optimistic about my chances, as well. I was quite honest regarding my post UKC struggles to maintain my momentum. After I stopped toing to the workouts daily I started "refeeding" myself food items I had banned from my diet and my I started regaining inches and pounds. (Early on it was just inches because of eating gluten, but that's another entry).

In Fall I hit a low and was frustrated with how short I had fallen from expectations. I started this weight loss journey almost 2 years ago now and watching shows like Biggest Loser feel almost entitled to instantaneous results. Of course I know that my wavering determination is a factor, but it is a privilege to be on Biggest Loser and it is a tremendous aid.

Kaiser has since stopped doing WLS in house because they got back logged and are now using Pacific Bariatric again. Although I felt very comfortable with the first surgery group I chose and think about the what ifs every time I pass their exit on the 73, I feel I am in great hands with Pacific Bariatric. I went in for a round of consults the second week of November and saw the surgeon, internist, and psychiatrist.

They had originally told me I could expect a February surgery date but given the holiday I was given a mid-March date. Since I have a mandatory travel trip the first week of April I had to postpone surgery until April 12th when I get back.

I know that I will continue to catch a lot of crap about getting weight loss surgery, but I hope by sharing my story and decision I can better educate people. I still have friends and family that while supportive stand by preconceived truths or what is out there in the media. I know that this is the decision for me and I've never prescribed myself to living a life any other way.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Bust A Move With Kinect

The focus of my affection in December was my XBOX 360. I actually just got it in December which was a huge improvement from my regular XBOX. As you may or may not know, Microsoft rolled out the Kinect in November.

The Kinect is technically a peripheral that connects to the 360. There's a lot of comparisons flying around between the Kinect, the Wii, Motion Eye, and the Move which Playstation rolled out in the winter, as well.

To break it down, the Wii was ahead of it's time and revolutionized gaming. Different companies have tried to expand motion control over the past few years but nothing has found mainstream success. Kinect scans your body, no controller necessary. This makes it more interactive than the Wii because you can use (and score points) using your legs. Move uses a camera and a controller to track your movements which gets points for extra tracking, but then you are bogged down with buying extra controllers and by holding the controllers. To me, Kinect is a very natural process, it seems to recognize my movements and I can focus my uncoordinated body on the screen.

The biggest complaint by far is the playing field involved. I have this set up in my bedroom and I have about 7 feet inbetween the bed and TV and it was barely enough room to play. If you want to have 2 players then you need an even larger space. I raised the Kinect above the TV and that seems to have given me about an extra foot.

I love playing this thing and yes I do get winded. Kinect comes with Kinect Adventures which allows you to play a few mini games which are interersting. One thing I didn't mention about Kinect earlier is that the camera senses your position in the room so activities such as the bubble popping game allow you to move forward and backwards which is pretty incredible.

There are other games coming, of course with motion based gaming the fitness and sports games come first. There is a Women/Men's Health game called Your Shape Evolved, there's a Biggest Loser game, and there's an EA Sports game amongst many other games that don't have high ratings online. The game that's probably gotten the most buzz is Dance Central which I haven't played but I hear is incredible. There will probably be other games coming out that aren't fitness oriented but for now that's what's on the line up.

I had a friend in high school that would play Dance Dance Revolution as her exercise. While using these products for weight loss as your sole source of exercise may not get you far, they are fun ways to break up your day and are a great solution for people in a rut or stuck inside because of the weather. If you can motivate yourself to turn on the TV and do the programs then it will get you sweating and maybe even possibly sore.


Some of you have asked me what a Bodybugg is from my tweets. Well, it's a magical device that you put on your arm and it measures your calorie burn via skin temperature and movement.

I believe it's on its 3rd model, I had the first one and now have the second one. I first saw the device on The Biggest Loser and didn't know what it was until I finally started hitting my local 24 Hour Fitness (sponsor of BL). Being a proud tech geek I knew I had to have one.

The device seems to be more accurate than a pedometer - I know that sometimes a pedometer would say I had walked a half mile before I even left the house. If anything, I've found I have to really pump my arms for steps to register which is why it doesn't measure kettlebells or spin class / cycling well.

This thing is so great I think I can also see when I'm in REM sleep. I typically average 1.5 calories per minute completely sedentary and certain times at night it drops to 1.2 calories. Definitely good information and makes nerd-me squee with delight.

The current version will actually sync to your smartphone via bluetooth which is quite an upgrade. Actually, I know for sure they have an Android (<3) app and an iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad application to download. There's also a web interface you can purcahse for a monthly fee and it will let you input foods and recipes to determine your calorie intake. Also in the web app you can see how many calories you burned (and when), your overall calorie surplus or deficit, and your steps and physical activity for the day with corresponding times. The nurition portion also breaks down your calorie consumption by carbs, fat, and protein and also shows where your consumption falls for the RDI of many things. As a Weight Watcher my biggest pet peeve with this is that it only shows carbs, fat, and protein for individual line items which makes it difficult to determine how much fiber was in each individual thing you consumed. The same unit is also produced by BodyMedia with a different web app. I don't have the unit or subscription but the interface seems sleeker and it also analyzes your sleep. Jenny Craig seems to have a partnership with them to bring it to select members which I also think it pretty awesome.

Now I'm going to girl out on you here, I think the Bodymedia interface looks really pretty - it's obviously marketed more towards women whereas the Bodybugg is marketed towards fitness people. Ok, done with that part... But seriosuly, if I were to upgrade to the newer model I think I might try out the BodyMedia one.

So is this for you? I say yes if you have the money to buy it, are active or are looking to be active, and if you love technology. The bottom line is whether you're going to wear it and sync it. Even when I'm being naughty with my eating it's good to see my calorie surplus laid out for me on the screen. This is ultimately a tool, it definitely won't take the weight off of you by itself but it puts out a lot of valuable information for you to analyze your day and see where you may be able to add in more activity.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Capture a Feeling...

I touched on this in my last post, but I really wish there was a true way of capturing my feelings that was powerful enough to remind me the next time I'm thinking of acting on my impulses.

Case in point, when I go to sushi I focus on how good it sounds and have a euphoric feeling when I start eating it. However, my feelings start to spiral into guilt and shame when I think of the money and calories I have expended for a fleeting event (and trust me, when I eat sushi it's an event!) that makes me feel so low. (Thank you carbs).

To help capture this feeling, I have tried journaling, but when I'm making rash decisions I don't really go back and read how awful things made me feel, all of my previous experiences are thrown out the window.

Looking at pictures can help, but it also seems to spur a hopelessness feeling in me that eggs me on in my poor decisions. I haven't tried video yet, but I think I might try that next time.

Just like emotions are formed based off of many factors, maybe my ultimate aid will be a combination of self-worth, will power, and these verbal and written documentation of my feelings.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Free Running

Apparently I'm a few years behind, but I'm a fan of parkour, well actually free running. In my defense, I just didn't know there was a name to the level of bad assery in movies as diverse as Casino Royale and Paul Blart: Mall Cop. And even though I love The Office, my fellas didn't quite have it.

For those who don't know, parkour is is a movement/discipline based on efficiently traversing the environment which includes jumping, climbing, rolling, swinging, and scaling. Many parkour enthusiasts, also called traceurs, are also free runners.

Free running takes many elements of parkour, but adds stunts. Unlike traceurs, free runners are interested in creative and aesthetic touches that can go against the efficient nature of parkour.

I actually came across this community watching American Ninja Warrior on G4TV. (Thank the heavens for the premium cable package I upgraded to in the summer!) American Ninja Warrior is an offshoot of Sasuke, a competitive game show in Japan. G4 is also launching a new show next week called Jump City which features some of the athletes from American Ninja Warrior.

A couple of my favorites from American Ninja Warrior were Levi Meeuwenberg (gotta love a fellow Michigander) and Brian Orosco and they are on Team Tempest which will be featured in Jump City. I'm really excited to see what all of the teams can do

So why am I writing about this on my weight loss blog? Because it's pretty freaking amazing. As someone supremely uncoordinated, it is inspiring to see what people can do with their bodies. I love how much talent, practice, and passion is necessary to pull off the moves and salute anyone who can do it. Watching the videos of these athletes I am touched by the artistry and dedication it takes for them to excel. Even though I can't do a somersault, it motivates me to make a difference in my life.

And anyone who knows a kid being teased for doing gymnastics needs to check out the videos on YouTube because these ladies and gentlemen are no joke.

Picture source:

Monday, February 7, 2011


So I'm another year older...well technically just a day older. What a difference a year does and doesn't make...

There's nothing like a major holiday or milestone that gets me thinking of the what if, has been, and never was moments of my life. I attribute many of these to my weight, but who's ultimately in charge of THAT?

Last year I literally went straight from a session with my UKC cohorts about our struggles to TGI Fridays for potato skins and a burger. A couple of years before I remember going to Weight Watchers to weigh in and doing the same thing.

This year I went crazy. Like really crazy. I ate breakfast at the grill in my office building, went out to lunch with my co-workers, went to happy hour, and then went to Dave and Busters.

Where has all of this gotten me? More importantly, why do I do this and how do I stop? I always wish I could capture the feeling of shame and regret that follows the euphoric feeling of eating. But more to come on that later...


There's no doubt that Subway is healthy...compared to other items in the American diet. I'm far from a nutritionist, but whether I'm counting calories, points, carbs, or protein Subway falls short for me. Personally, protein not only fills my belly, it satisfies me. I lerve me some sandwiches, but I can truly eat a 12" turkey and feel unsatieted afterward.

Some of you may have seen my tweet last week. I had not planned my meals so I stopped in at Subway and got a 6" breakfast flatbread. While I was there I figured I should pick up a healthy lunch and got a 12" turkey swearing to myself that I would only eat half.

Well, I ate all of the flatbread by 8:30am and polished off the footlong at noon and was ravenous all day. THEN, I went to enter everything into my BodyBugg web app and was surprised to see I had eaten 470 calories for breakfast and 640 calories for lunch for a combined carbohydrate intake of 132. Holy white bread, Batman!

Lesson learned, lesson learned. I know that having Subway twice a day is an extreme, but I know there are people out there who think they can eat anything from Subway and be the next Jared.

I implore everyone to go to Subway's website and read about their nutrition ( Don't just look at calories or nutrients, look at the actual ingredients. Did you know that the wheat bread there actually has HFCS? Did you know the steak and meatball sandwiches had THAT many calories? Just some food for thought. (Oh come on, you knew that tagline was coming!)

I like Subway and it's a fast alternative to unhealthy options. No joke the Subway I went to was in 100 foot radius of a Del Taco, chinese restaurant, bagel shop, Thai place, and a pizza place. However, I am now more informed and will plan ahead for what I can and should have.

Body Composition with DEXA Scans

After seeing it on The Biggest Loser, I wanted to have a DEXA Scan done on myself to evaluate how much fat and muscle I truly had.

I had no idea how few places actually did this. I only found one in my area. A DEXA scan is primarily used to check bone density, but some practices use it to measure body composition, as well.

Anyone out there saying their scale measures this for them, prepare to have your mind blown. Whether you are using a scale or one of the handheld grip devices, the unit's energy waves only penetrate about half of your body depending on your size. Please bear in mind this is standard stock stuff, nothing too fancy or expensive.

Now for me, it didn't end up making that much of a difference, I think that may be attributed to my short stature and the fact that most of my fat is in my belly. However, if you carry your muscle or fat primarily in your legs or arms, these devices may give you unreliable information.

I've had DEXA scans done twice. Unfortunately the results weren't drastically different, but I know one day they will be. Actually, I can't say I have a 100% accurate reading because my technician was talking on her cell phone and didn't realize that parts of my body were hanging out of bounds each time. (Yes, part of this is because I am large)

So do you have to be afraid to do this test? Not really. I went to an integrative medical clinic and they do it there. If you aren't familiar with integrative medicine, it is a concept where doctors who are primarily MDs integrate alternative therapies into their everyday practices. These doctors are very health conscious and actually study electromagnetic waves and the body so if they tell you it's low grade risk then you're good to go.

When they did the scan I kept my street clothes and just laid down. I totally felt like I was a document being scanned into a computer, which I guess was fairly accurate. To avoid movement they did confine my legs together, but otherwise the scanner hovers about a foot overhead and moves down and then up your body so you aren't enclosed. In less than 10 minutes you are ready to go.

A couple of weeks later I receive a full report in the mail that is fairly easy to explain. Not only does it give you an overall reading, it gives you a region reading so you can also see if your body is symmetrical. This can be of benefit if you have had a sports injury so you know what you need to do to balance your body.

For me, the scan itself wasn't very expensive, but I had to pay an initial visit fee with the doctor which was expensive.

There are other options out there, the Bod Pod is supposed to be accurate, but it cannot accommodate everyone. There's also the tried and true hydrostatic testing otherwise known as going in the "dunk tank".

For now, I can't wait until I fit in the line guides and know I have an accurate measurement. Furthermore, I can't wait to see my body composition change and as a techie am excited to be able track my progress.

Has anyone else tried this or other types of testing? What do you think?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Weight Watchers

I have been a Weight Watcher off and on since 8th Grade. I joined with my mom pretty much every year up until my senior year when I joined with friends.

At that time I remember I was ravenous - I had postponed both of my gym classes until the last part of my senior year and I would run a mile 3 times a week and it was frustrating because it seemed like my time never improved and the skinny girls would hide behind this "shield" on the other side of the track or other overweight people would run 3 laps and I would be the only one clocking in at 14 minutes.

I didn't really join WW in college, I think my mom and I had tried to give it a go but it never stuck for more than a month. We were onto fad type diets like meal replacement shakes by then.

As someone who even in 8th grade had significant weight to lose, my frustration with Weight Watchers was when I would have leaders who lost 15 pounds and hit goal. This was a barrier to communication and proper help in many ways. First, they had never been fat and didn't know what it was like. Secondly, they didn't have food co-dependency or the lack of self control that accompanies.

Case A: In past incarnations of the program you figured out your daily points range by factoring in the first two digits of your weight. My last leader saw I wasn't writing anything down in Orientation and couldn't fathom that I can add 5 numbers in my head and demanded I tell them how many points I got. I politely replied that I didn't want to tell everyone my weight. It's these types of things that make me self conscious at WW. Oh yeah, also when I'm in a group of people that are in their weight range looking to slim up for cruises.

My best leader was when I lived in Las Vegas. She was young, vivacious, had lost 80 pounds, and loved life. To top it off she was 4 months pregnant and you couldn't even tell. She was living the lifestyle.

My final beef with Weight Watchers was that with the points system it was easy to choose processed foods over clean foods because they were the same points. This definitely wasn't helped when WW started coming out with their own product lines, but everyone has to make money and their stuff is tasty.

Points Plus
So this brings us to present day. I joined WW and this is my second week. I have to applaud them for their eTools system, which gets better every time I join, and for the monthly pass because it keeps me invested in the program for at least a month. (Though I'm really not sure who goes to multiple meetings a week...)

In November Weight Watchers rolled out their new Points Plus Plan which is really just an alliterative way of saying New Points. With this program you analyze your fat, fiber, protein, and carbohydrates to evaluate points as opposed to the calories, fat, and fiber of yesteryear. They have also now made all fruits zero points. The reason I like this is it encourages cleaner eating by showing that an apple, even if it is a few points, is better than a bag of chips.

They've probably had this for a while, it's been 2 years since I was in WW, but they also have iPhone and Blackberry apps which are great. However, I can't wait for them to do something for my Android. It just isn't socially acceptable to whip your iPad out in public casually, even in Orange County, and you can't use a slide ruler anymore.

So is Weight Watchers for everyone? No, but no weight loss plan is. What I like about Weight Watchers is it gives you the option of what to eat. If you want a Lean Cuisine, eat a Lean Cuisine. If you want birthday cake, just budget it in. I also like the accountability of having a group meeting and weigh in to go to. They celebrate every little thing at Weight Watchers and it seems trivial but the 5 pound star stickers and the other things they give out do make you feel good.

Okay so I just thought this was funny, my mom joined me at WW this week and she was so upset that she is 170 and 5'8". I know right, cry me a freaking river! But anyways, there were two women in line behind us who started talking because they were both joining and recognized each other from previous attempts. My mom got up on the scale and they said she had gained 6.6 pounds since 2009 and the ladies were scoffing about how 3 pounds a year isn't that bad. Needless to say, that made my mom's night. It's all about perspective. Your weight is going to fluctuate, the problem my mom has had is that her health is on a decline and while she doesn't eat anything terrible like I tend to, she doesn't eat particularly healthy either so it's also about how you feel on the inside.