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Open wide…or How I’m Dealing with a Dilated Esophagus

****The was written back in January but I forgot to publish it. Silly me!*****

I bet you think you know what full is. I bet you think you know what it feels like to eat so much you actually can’t swallow another bite. So full that your stomach feels like it’s gonna burst. Normal people think they know what this feels like. But Lapbandsters know better. Especially Lapbandsters whose lapband happens to be just a touch too tight.

Well, I recently found out that I’ve been living like that for over a year. Back in November 2012, I had my very first experience with an inflamed esophagus. It was extremely painful. I couldn’t eat for days. I kept trying to drink water or hot drinks (dumb!) to soothe my burning throat but nothing would put out the flames.

I called Slimband at the time and they got back to me 5 DAYS after I called them. 5 effing days of suffering whilst waiting to hear what could be causing the searing pain I felt with every swallow. Well, thank my lucky stars for a thing called Google and the support of my fellow lapbandsters cause Slimband earned a big fat FAIL for their role in finding a solution to that trauma. (Yes, I most certainly could have gone to the doctor myself, but I don’t have a family doctor here in Ottawa so I would have had to go to a clinic, get a referral, wait for the referral and blah, blah – my lack of family doctor is a rant for another day!)

When the nurse finally returned my call, she asked me to visit my local clinic for a Barium Swallow. By this point, I was no longer in pain so I didn’t bother. Not to mention my irrational fear of such a seemingly disgusting procedure.

After this, I found myself struggling to eat or drink quite a few foods that I’d heard lapbandsters can no longer consumer once they reach their “sweet spot”. I also struggled to drink water, hot soup and anything with a consistency thicker than a chilli. I never really thought much of it, just that this was where I was supposed to be. Unfortunately, I was very wrong.

This November, I called Slimband to discuss the possibility of a fill knowing full well that at 9.5 ccs in a 10  cc band they were unlikely to grant it. It was in an effort to open the lines of communication again and to attempt to revisit their after-care support system. Well, I’m very glad I did.

After a conversation with a consultant and one of the lovely nurses, I was asked again to have the Barium Swallow. So, I did this as soon as possible which turned out to be 3 weeks later by the time the Radiology clinic could fit me in.

And this is what they found:

Dilated-esophagus

Turns out I’ve got a dilated esophagus. Big, huge, tears streaming down my very sad face. I can’t believe I let myself get to this position without realizing something was terribly wrong with my digestive system.

Slimband got me into their clinic here in O-Town within 24hours of receiving the results. Where they performed an aspiration. This is when they withdraw all of the saline out of the band to see how much is actually in there. In my case it was 8.5 ccs and not the 9.5 ccs they had originally thought.

So, they withdrew a full 2 ccs from my band so that my esophagus has a chance to heal. They never said it would heal for sure, but this is the first step in the healing process. It’s been two months now since I had the aspiration and I can say that within 2 days I felt infinitely more comfortable. I’m still restricted but having a drink of water in the morning is no longer an issue. And I actually feel like I can eat the foods I should be eating.

The next step is to submit my 7 day food diary, complete with before and after pics to illustrate portion size. Then, I’ve gotta have another Barium Swallow so they can see if my esophagus is returning to normal. If not, I have to consider removing the lapband altogether – at MY expense. Urgh.

I’ve gone through all swirls of emotions on this one but the biggest is disappointment that I allowed myself to live in pain for over a year and didn’t even realize it. I’ve certainly learned to live with a lot of aches and pains but this one tops them all.

What I’ve realized is that all too often, those packing a little junk in the trunk avoid addressing health issues because they’re afraid to see a doctor who might once again remind them that they’re overweight. My unsolicited, non-medical professional advice is to suck it up and GO TO THE DOCTOR. There might something wrong with you that has an easy fix, or worse! But go. You’ll be glad you did because you won’t have the anxiety which so often triggers eating in some of us.

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Thanks for the Memories or How I Survived a PB-Free Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in Canadia which is always a challenging time for this luscious lapband patient. It’s a weekend of alcohol overindulgence and too much turkey.

Thanksgiving-960x640

For the past 3+ years since I had my surgery, any kind of turkey day has always been the source of some dismay. I can never quite get through a Thanksgiving (or Christmas) dinner featuring the famous foul without finding myself sharing half my harvest-celebration dinner with the porcelain gods.

Well, I’m happy to report that not one bite of my fancy feast with fabulous friends yesterday, or my family today, was sacrificed in the satisfying of this appetite. What was the source of my success in holding down the dinner I hold so dear? Chewing. Lots of chewing. Very, very slowly. I was also very conservative in the quantity of turkey that was piled on my plate.

The secret for me this year really is that I kept my limits in mind and stopped when I felt even slightly full. Granted, I’m a touch on the hungry side right now but I’d much rather be hungry before bed than suffering from the dreaded gastric reflux! Score one PB-Free feast for this lapbandster!

Happy Thanksgiving!

How did you make sure you didn’t lose your lunch? 

Mixed Mushroom Pasta

This Mixed Mushroom Pasta looks amazeballs. I’m not supposed to eat much pasta what with my lap-band and the tiny tummy but when I do want pasta, I want it to look/taste like this!

Small servings recommended.

Fish Tacos

I’ve been looking for a good at home Fish Taco recipe and I think this could be the one. I found it on Maggie’s One Butt Kitchen and it looks amazing!

Generally speaking, if you use the smallest soft tortilla size, two Fish Tacos is a perfect bandster portion. I’m sure that would also be true of these.

maggiesonebuttkitchen

Fish Tacos

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Chipotle Salsa:

2 cups seeded and diced Roma tomatoes

2 tablespoons minced red onion

1 tsp. red wine vinegar

1 canned chipotle pepper,minced

salt, to taste

2 tablespoons cilantro,chopped

Picante Slaw:

2 cups finely shredded cabbage

2 tsp. lime juice

2 tsp. honey

2 tablespoons minced red onion

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

2 tsp. chopped cilantro

salt, to taste

Fish:

2 lbs. tilapia

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3 tablespoons lime juice

5 tsp. chili powder

1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1 1/2 tsp ground coriander

1 1/2 tsp minced garlic

salt, to taste

Lime Crema:

1/2 cup Mexican crema or sour cream

zest from one lime

juice from 1 lime

8- 8 inch diameter flour tortillas

Salsa:

Combine all ingredients; toss and set aside.

Slaw:

Combine all ingredients; toss and set aside.

Crema:

Combine all ingredients; stir to combine and set aside.

Tortillas:

On a grill pan…

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Something I cooked tonight

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This is my attempt at an amazing recipe for Spanish Chicken with Chorizo and Potatoes I pinned from a friend on my Pinterest Boards. My god, I do love that site for stuff like this.

Of course, I scaled down the recipe since this chef is only cooking for one. This will do me well for dinner for the next couple of days. Yum!

One chicken thigh, a few pieces of chorizo and a few baby potatoes halves are the perfect portion for the bandster belly. With maybe a tiny bit of room left for dessert…

Wine Wednesday

I recently visited the very delicious Wellington Gastropub. I went with a friend for a special advance birthday dinner a deux. We drank a few glasses of wine in honour of #WineWednesday and indulged in a happy helping of some of their finest fare.Wienert - #winewednesday

It really was fantastic! The best part was that the portion sizes are perfect for the Slimbandster. Just big enough that when you tell the wait staff you’re finished they actually believe you when you say it was delicious. All too often my servers think I haven’t enjoyed my meal because I’ve eaten less than half of what’s on my plate. Not this time! I even managed to save room for desert. A beautiful birthday dinner with a beautiful friend!

It Feels Good

So, I’ve been a bit busy lately and have been keeping my written rants and raves tucked neatly away in my lollipop. Although I’ve had loads to say I just haven’t really had the chance to type it all out. For my own self indulgence I feel the need to do a little brain dump so in the interests of keeping my blog brief yet informative, my musings will follow here in point form today.

  1. I had a fill chat with cheerfully friendly Jody from Slimband who at one point considered the idea that I may not actually exist in real life due to my elusive cell phone behaviour. She performed the inevitable and scheduled a chat with Nurse Nancy.
  2. I finally got the job of my dreams. I’ve been interviewing for real jobs in O-Town. Not just the kind of jobs we want when we don’t actually have a job but the kind of jobs we want to drop everything for. I interviewed with Schleich (the Germany toy company that distributes the Smurfs) and with Export Development Canada and….I got the job with EDC. Yayyyyy!!!!Something tells me I may have actually been selected for the Schleich job too but I inadvertently announced my acceptance of the EDC job on LinkedIn via Twitter thinking I was Tweeting to my chums rather than my professional contacts. Tut, tut Vickie dear. This is not the best way to start a career as the Web Marketing Manager for Canada’s crown corporation responsible for providing export assistance. But, better to make these mistakes now, eh??  I start the job on August 3rd.
  3. I got scolded by the lovely Nurse Nancy. I guess I deserved it but it sucked the wind out of my sails a bit. Since my second fill, I’ve been doing very well to ensure I’m eating less and moving more but I haven’t really felt all thatrestricted. I had one incident with a plate of Chinese food where I’m pretty sure my lap-band spoke to me in a more than stern shriek about the importance of chewing one’s food but other than that it’s been pretty smooth sailing for this bandster. So, I mentioned this very point to Nancy and expressed my disappointment that my band wasn’t shrieking more often.
    Full belly frogMuch to my dismay, she was very stern herself in explaining to me that THAT feeling isn’t the ‘soft warning’ for the ‘feeling of fullness’ I should be looking for. THAT feeling is in fact, the feeling of overeating. So, I absolutely should NOT be hoping for that feeling EVER. Hmph. This of course frustrated me to no end because if I could stop eating before I was feeling completely full, then I really wouldn’t have had to spend $16000 on a lap-band. But I gotta do what the good Nurse Nancy says and focus on food quantity before I actually put it in my mouth. That being said, she did schedule another good sized fill for me with Dr B so I ultimately got what I wanted despite the debate. I haven’t made my appointment yet though.
  4. I’m currently having some good times in The Maritimes visiting my home town of Saint John, NB. Very nice to be back in The Port City chillin’ with some friends and watching the world go by near the ocean. There’s really not too much better in the world than a day at the beach. Although the landscape and the view have changed somewhat since my departure, Mispec Beach still holds a special place in my heart. I’ll be heading to sunny Shediac to Parlee Beach for a wedding this weekend then on to Mabou, Cape Breton for another one. Lots of great stuff to do before it’s back to the grindstone!

Mispec BeachThat’s about it for now. Bit of a big blog post today but had some stuff to say so it’s good to get these things on screen. Remember back in the day when we wrote things on paper??

Fill My Little World

Phew! What an eventful day! Had my 2nd fill with Dr Bishop this morning. Total band contents is now a whopping 5ccs and I can definitely feel it now.

Seriously, I love that guy. He’s super knowledgeable and actually speaks to me like I’m a person. All too often in my past doctors have dismissed my comments and concerns out of hand and oversimplified my situation. But Dr Bishop actually seems to want to help me to achieve my goals. It’s monstrously motivating!

Especially when he gets as enlivened by my losses as I do. Since the last time I saw him (May 26th) I’ve lost nearly 5lbs. This brings my total losses to 18.2lbs in a little over 11 weeks. I’m pretty pleased with my progress since it’s right at the expected rate of 1-2lbs per week.

To top it all off, things are feeling pretty tight in the tummy. I can most certainly feel the restriction in my stomach. I’m on clear liquids/full liquids for the next 24-48hrs (thank goodness Canada Day is 3 day away!). Last time, I could chow down on the day of my fill but this time, I’m terrified to try! It’s tight and I know it.

It makes me a little nervous cause I really don’t want to get too restricted. I’d like to get to the point where it’s tight enough that I’ll get a subtle hint to stop stuffing my face but not enough to make me barf. I mentioned as much to Dr Bishop and he shared my sentiments. He told me about some fantastic research from the very same conference he attended at Harvard Medical School in May.

He said that by keeping my lap-band ever so slightly under restricted and concentrating on stopping when I’m supposed to, I’m actually working at training my brain to react the way it should without actually needing the physical response triggered by the band. This is where I want to be when all of this is said and done – Dr Bishop agrees.

I do so wish I could read these reports but I’m also happy to take his word for it. I quite like that he actually has these tales to tell me. I really hope the Slimband nurse is as informed as Dr B!! We’ll have to see next time…if there is one!

With a Little Help From My Friends

Had an interesting day. My (not so) little bro moved to town this weekend so I’ve been spending a fair bit of time with him. It’s interesting to see him as an adult. Since I was living abroad for so long I never really got to see him grow up. I probably spent 8 weeks worth of time with him in as many years. He managed to get engaged, break up, find the woman of his dreams, get married and now they’re pregnant. He’s all growed up.

But some things really never change. He’s always been the underdog in the family. As such, he’s got quite a few obvious defense mechanisms for keeping himself happy and healthy and he’s most certainly got something to prove.

Especially right now. He’s being bombarded with people that want to do everything they can to help him get settled but he says he doesn’t need any help, thank you.  He got where he is just fine without anyone else. Oh, if ever there were words so true in this world! Not just for him, but for me…

The number of times I’ve told the world, I’m fine…The number of times I’ve had to make my own mistakes in order to grow personally and professionally… Learning how to ask for help was certainly a challenge for a while! Sometimes I wonder how I got where I am today.

For some people, their weight is a reflection of their unhappiness and inability to admit they need help coping. For me, it’s more a reflection of all the fun I’ve been having in my life and making sure I try EVERY type of food I possibly can. I’m most certainly NOT unhappy doing that. It’s afterwards that the guilt and unhappiness sometimes sets in.

Now that I’m healing and am able to tolerate significantly more substantial sustenance, I find myself adrift in happy eating. (As I mentioned before, social situations are dominated by eating and drinking in my life.) Up until the past couple of days, I’d been doing well to say no because it wasn’t worth the 10 minute chew-a-thon required to properly consume unhealthy (yet tasty) foods.

Spaghetti and MeatballsBut when the Lil Bro invited me over for some of  I Mom’s homemade spaghetti with meatballs at a real Mac family dinner, I decided it might well be worth the effort. I followed the 1/4 cup guideline for the pasta and had about 5 meatballs. I was munching and chatting happily with the fam and suddenly found myself struggling to swallow. I simply got carried away, got distracted and didn’t chew properly. I stopped eating, sat for a few minutes a got away unscathed. But boy, oh, boy was it painful and frustrating to sit there with food stuck in my chest, unable to swallow it or spit it out!

This prompted the shocking realization of just how much I would mindlessly eat over a meal shared with friends and family simply because I wasn’t thinking.

What’s funny about this is that I’ve eaten properly at home for the better part of 5 years yet still packed on a few pounds. I’ve had the occasional indulgence but at-home eating, is relatively healthy eating for me – as long as I prepare it MYSELF!! It’s really been eating out that has been my very own undoing and to see it staring me right in the face was quite a revelation.

I guess what I learned was that I really need to THINK about everything I’m putting in my mouth. It’s really got to be worth it. Space is indeed at a premium in my new tiny tummy so I really ought to eat premium food designed for me to savour every bite. And since Bandster buddies are a wealth of information, I shall be exploiting their expertise and ceasing to making my own social eating mistakes henceforth. Life is just easier when you’ve got a little help.

Risky Business

The past couple of days have been pretty risky food-wise. I had my “Nutrition Kickstart” with Slimband‘s Dietician Arlene on Thursday (more on that in another post) and she gave me a lot of a great advice. But she also kinda showed me the way to temptation. 

Bowl of Stupid

Apparently, I should be almost completely healed now and my stomach should be returning to normal. Since I’m not restricted it should almost feel as if I don’t even have a band.

Now, I wouldn’t say that’s entirely true for me but it’s pretty close. Its super tight in the mornings and sometimes late at night but other than that I most certainly feel like I can almost eat anything I used to eat pre-surgery. I mean, how else could one explain eating steak two nights in a row this week without any trouble?? I did chew, chew, chew but still…

So, armed with the new found knowledge that I COULD try eating some other things, I DID try eating some other things. Like pancakes. Wow, big mistake…

Although I didn’t get sick, I most certainly knew there was food in my pouch for a lot longer than anything else normally is. I felt pressure on my throat for most of the morning.

Then since we were having a family dinner I thought I’d try a small bowl of Gam’s homemade corn chowder. I’d previously read that I shouldn’t really eat corn in the first couple of months because it’s gassy and difficult to digest even for a normal stomach. Well, I went ahead and did it and boy was that stupid! Granted I had A LOT less than I ever would but it just sort of sat there in my stomach. Not a pleasant feeling.

I normally would push my limits a bit but it’s resulted in some weight gain this week. Shocker. Since today is one month since I had my surgery, it’s weigh-in day. I’m down 14.2 lbs since the pre-op diet. That’s a 3.8 lb gain since I started real food on the 6th May. It’s annoying but it’s to be expected. I should be gaining even if I wasn’t trying pancakes and chowder since I haven’t had a fill yet and definitely haven’t reached my ‘sweet spot’.

Arlene gave me some great ideas for how to watch my portion control in preparation for my first fill. So, I shall be following those to the letter until my ‘Fill Seminar’ with Nancy.

Reading Rainbow

A few of us over at MySlimband.com were asking our Slimband dietician Arlene, for some recs and advice on healthy bandster-friendly full food meal plans. I was so pleased with her rec that I had to share it here!

Her rec was Clean Eating Magazine and their monthly meal plans of 14-30 days included in each issue. There are meal plans, recipes, shopping lists and plenty of advice on how to live a healthier, cleaner life. They’ve also got mini meal plans that are available for downloading and printing on their website.clean eating

The main philosophy behind Clean Eating Mag is to consume foods in as close to their natural state as possible and to steer clear of man-made and processed foods.

It’s very similar to The BodyDoctor philosophy so I know from experience it’s a pretty great way of life.

Clean eating definitely helped my IBS last time I tried it so I’m looking forward to trying it again. It should probably help with the second traffic jam I’ve been experiencing too. Sadly, Slimband bandsters can only use Senokot and we’ve gotta crush it up. WORST. TASTE. EVER. So, I’m struggling a bit.

That being said, I shall indeed be testing out some of the delicious dishes Clean Eating has on offer as soon as possible after I move on to the food stage.

NOTE: Slimband doesn’t officially endorse this magazine. It was just a rec from Arlene. BUT I certainly do! I picked it up today and it’s fantastic!

Funky Fresh or What to Store Your Healthy Snacks In

Since I was feeling quite refreshed today I thought it was time I went for a wander with my dear Gam and my auntie. We went to the chic and cheerful SAAB Salon & Spa on Ottawa’s Bank street for them to get a quick primp and pamper.

Whilst I was awaiting the completion of a double masterpiece, one of the super stylists was bored and offered to curl my very rushed, recently-washed-but-not-dried hair. I had no other plans so I let her do her thang and hot damn my hair looked fantastic when she was through! And it was free!

The lovely ladies on Frank’s team really do a go above and beyond. We’ve booked a Mother’s Day Girls Day Out for May 8th so I’m really looking forward some de-stressing.  Not that I’m particularly worn-out, just effing tired of looking for a job. Hmph.

We then headed to what some would most certainly consider the Mecca for Canadian frugalistasWinner’s. I never fail to find something fabulous every time I see inside their four white walls. And this time was no exception. I picked up a very pretty pair of the most perfectly portioned plastic containers from Fit & FreshLunch on the go

I chose the Lunch on the Go Set ($7.99 CAD down from $16.99 CAD) and the Fresh Start Breakfast Chiller ($5.99 down from $12.99 CAD). These little gems are going to be a big help with portion control now that I’ve got such a tiny tummy!

Bandying About or What Lap-Band Surgery Looks Like

Since I’m going to be writing a lot about my journey I thought I’d give a bit more detail about what kind of weight-loss surgery (WLS) I’m doing, exactly. There are two major types of WLS for one to choose from: Gastric Bypass and Gastric Banding (or LAP-BAND®). I’ve opted for Gastric Band surgery.

Gastric Band - Lap Band - Surgery

WLS has been popularized in recent years by celebrities such as Carnie Wilson. She had the more invasive gastric bypass surgery back in 1999, which complete rearranged her gastrointestinal tract. There are a number of pros and cons for each surgical path but I’ve opted for the less invasive (and completely reversible) gastric band.

Gastric banding surgery is done laproscopically and the entire surgery takes a little over an hour. The picture above provides a very clear illustration of what my stomach will look like internally after the surgery is completed. The port will be hidden under the skin and a doctor will use this as the entry point to fill and de-fill the hallow band around my stomach to increase or decrease the restriction on my stomach.

What this means is I’ll no longer be able to overeat for fear of choking or being physically sick. It doesn’t affect my digestion or the absorption of nutrients in my body, it simply restricts the amount of food I can eat in one sitting. Since it’s adjustable I have control of how restricted my eating will be. It’s also possible to remove the band entirely without any permanent damage to my stomach.

Although typically bandsters (those who’ve had the surgery) lose an average of 1-2 lbs per week, it’s by no means an EASY solution to weight loss. My diet will definitely change as there are a number of things bandsters  physically can’t eat at first. But once I get used to eating with the band in place, I should be able to eat most foods again.

So, I’m still going to have to focus on a eating healthy diet for the rest of my life like I would if I didn’t have WLS. The surgery is just going to FORCE me to do it.

I did a lot of research on WLS to arrive at my decision. I checked all over Canada and the UK and even considered Mexico at one point (my uncle had his done there in January 2010). But when I spoke to the good people (thanks Niki!) at Slimband I was sure their program was exactly what I was looking for. Slimband offers not only offers a highly skilled surgical team (Dr Patrick Yau is doing mine), they offer an intensive 4-year aftercare program to help their patients along their journey.

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