A study presented at ASMBS and published online in JAMA reports increased alcohol use two years after gastric bypass. While previous studies examining alcohol use following weight loss surgery have been small and have only examined behavior after surgery, this study, titled “Prevalence of Alcohol Use Disorders Before and After Bariatric Surgery,” monitored patients in the year before surgery and for up to two years following weight loss surgery.
Don’t worry if you don’t. It’s been quite awhile. Send a girl to grad school, and she just gets all caught up in working on her doctorate! My last post was in October, so let me catch you up on my life a little.
Most of it? School, school, and more school. I spent my life here:
And I got to read thrilling things like this:
And in the spring, just for fun, we added matrix algebra to the mix. Because that sounded like fun. In “Regression and Multivariate Analysis.” AKA “Let Me Make You Feel Incompetent on a Daily Basis.” Yeah, my desk usually looked more like this:
(Oh, remind me to tell you about the one time I spilled Coke Zero all over my laptop. ‘Cause that’s such a funny story…) But yes. School consumed me. Especially this spring.
I can’t say that I’ve been the most compliant weight loss surgery patient in the last eight months. During the school year, I relied on trail mix and peanut butter crackers a little more than I should have. But, as of March, I was three years out, and I’m still within ten pounds of my lowest weight. I’m maintaining my loss pretty successfully.
I’ve noticed that my life centers less and less around my identity as a weight loss surgery patient. As I’ve gotten further out from surgery, I no longer stick out the way I did in the beginning. I can eat more now. Depending on what it is, maybe even something pretty close to a normal portion (e.g., salad). It’s not a big deal if I order a burger and only eat half of it. Nobody asks questions. I certainly don’t advertise my surgery status, but then again, I never have.
At the same time that the physical issues have become less and less important, man, the emotional impact is still there, and it really caught up with me in the past few months. There’s a lot of work to be done after bariatric surgery in how you relate to yourself and in how you present yourself to the world. I’m finding that out more and more. Self-esteem can shift a lot with weight loss, and it’s easy to question yourself when you’re very much in transition. I’m definitely a work in progress.
But I’m glad to be back here. I really did miss blogging during the school year, and I’m hoping to put some things in place so it will be easier to continue once classes start up again this fall.
Yes, I’ve finally broken through that mythical 110 pound window that’s been holding me back for two and a half years. This week, the scale started revealing strange numbers. I’d been hanging out in the 178-182 range for, well, months basically. And then on Sunday I saw 177. Then on Monday, it was 176. And on Tuesday, I saw a number I’d never seen since surgery: 175. I really couldn’t believe it. Especially since I hadn’t been doing anything particularly willful to lose weight. Sure, I’d been eating a little less; I wasn’t all that hungry these days. On Wednesday, I was a little nervous to get on the scale. Surely that 175 was a mistake, right? But, no. 174. And on Thursday, I saw 173. That puts me officially 112 pounds down from my highest recorded pre-op weight of 285, and at a BMI of 23.5.
I came across an interesting piece in the LA Times that has really gotten me thinking. The question at the center of the piece is whether morbid obesity ever constitutes child abuse and if there are circumstances where obese children should be removed from their parents’ custody.
While I was not able to attend the ASMBS conference in Orlando earlier this summer, I was offered a unique opportunity by Ethicon Endo-Surgery during the conference — I was able to conduct an interview related to a study conducted by EES and the Obesity Action Coalition.
Sorry for the lapse in blogging, folks. Life has been, well … happening. Despite the lack of posts, I’ve been rather busy over the past two months. Both in my day-to-day life and in my “bariatric” life. This is going to be a bit of a catch-all post, but I’ve got a lot I need to put up!
Life in General
Part of the reason I’ve been, well, missing lately is that I’ve had very little free time. I got “promoted” at work. I put that in quotation marks because I got all the responsibilities of management without the actual title. Which is fine with me. I’ll only be at my company through the end of the summer, so it doesn’t make sense to give me a title. But, in the past month, I went through a hectic, two-week training for a new position, which I then assumed. Oh, and I sliced part of my finger off too. Right before I left for D.C. My first on-the-job injury. And that was on my manager’s last day. I don’t do anything half-way!
In the meantime, I’m also still trying to do some academic research for a professor, gearing up for starting my PhD program in the fall, and I’ve been house- and dog-sitting for the past month. So, just a bit busy. But I’m still here. And I’ve been busy in the bariatric realm too…
Obesity Action Coalition Day on the Hill
On June 20th, the OAC conducted a legislative Day on the Hill. I was lucky enough to be a part of their advocacy efforts. We gathered in Washington on the 19th to coordinate our efforts and hit the ground running on the 20th. Our goal was to urge legislators to include obesity treatments in the essential benefits package of the healthcare bill. I was a part of the Texas coalition, and we had our work cut out for us, as the vast majority of the legislators whose aides we were meeting with are strongly against the healthcare package. Still, everyone we met with was very polite and very interested in our stories. The fact that the four healthy-weight individuals in front of them had lost a combined total of almost 550 pounds certainly grabbed their attention!
You can read my follow-up letter on the event here.
I am a political scientist by training, so this event was right up my alley. I cannot stress the importance of advocacy enough. The OAC does such amazing work for individuals affected by overweight and obesity. The work they do is about so much more than just access to bariatric surgery. I urge each and every one of you to look into their efforts. If you are not yet a member, what’s stopping you? This organization is our voice in Washington. Let’s be heard.
While in D.C., I got to spend time with some of my favorite people…
Shelly (The World According to Eggface) flew in from California. I always love the pictures we take together! And, sweet Shelly, she sliced her finger in sympathy for me!
On Sunday, I ran into Toni, Lynnda, and Mike of BariatricTV. We decided to play tourist and took a trolley tour of DC. Of course, it was an entirely spontaneous decision, and I didn’t have a camera with me… But it was a lot of fun!
BBGC North Texas Support Group
The lovely Shana and I took it upon ourselves to start a support group! We both felt that the support groups offered by our doctors were mostly targeted to those closer out from surgery and the weeknight meetings did not fit our hectic schedules. So what’s a bad girl to do? Start a new group, of course! So far, we’ve had three meetings and a ton of fun! For more information, visit our Facebook page.
Spontaneity and Support
One of the gifts the BBGC has given me is a group of friends and a support network that I can call on and lean on just about any time. Whether I’m happy, bored, or upset, these gals and guys are just wonderful. A couple weeks ago, we had some out-of-towners visit Dallas for a weekend of Tex Mex, laughter, support, and karaoke. We couldn’t have had a better time, though we probably could have gotten a little more sleep throughout the visit. Many thanks to Mel, Travis, and Michelle for traveling to meet up with us!
We had a great local support group meeting Saturday morning:
That evening we hit the town for sushi and karaoke:
It was an awesome weekend and made us all wish we lived closer!
So much so that a couple weeks later, faced with a free day, Shana and I jumped in my car and drove to Austin for the day to visit Travis and his girlfriend Jina. Lovely hosts that they were, they jumped right on board with our spontaneity and showed us around Austin. We had a great dinner at Shady Grove, visited the original Whole Foods, and wandered around the Capitol grounds before we had to head back to Dallas because somebody (ahem — me) had to work the following morning.
It was a great trip, and we’re already planning on returning sometime in August when we can stay a little longer! Thanks for having us, Travis and Jina!
Of course, bad girls that we are, Shana and I have been getting into trouble back in Dallas, too. We hit the kitchen on Thursday and cooked up a delicious salmon, red rice, and peach and fresh mozzarella salad:
Yes, you can eat real, delicious, healthy food after gastric bypass. It’s not artificially-flavored mushy junk forever!
That’s about it for now. I’ll try to be better about blogging on a regular basis, but I can’t promise that life won’t get in the way! It’s the nature of the beast.
The following was written as part of my advocacy efforts with the Obesity Advocacy Coalition:
At the age of twenty-one, I had Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (weight loss surgery). Even though I was young, I had already reached 285 pounds, and I was saddled with the comorbidities of obesity. My adolescent body was bearing what should have been the diseases of a much older adult. I was on medications for high cholesterol, asthma, and depression and had been diagnosed with fatty liver disease, high blood pressure, and prediabetes. I was a very sick young woman, and I was in dire need of treatment. For me, the answer was weight loss surgery. Because I was a college student, bariatric surgery was only a viable option for me because I was still on my parent’s excellent health insurance.
Now, two years out from surgery, my story is very different. I no longer openly carry the badges of obesity, and my comorbidities have been alleviated. I am a healthy weight individual. But I am so aware of how different my life could have been based solely on a single clause in my insurance coverage. What if my parents had not been able to afford such generous insurance? What if their coverage had excluded coverage for obesity treatments, as so many plans do? Where would I be now? Would I be pursuing my PhD, when before my surgery I struggled to walk to my undergrad classes without losing my breath? Would I be working full-time, on my feet all day?
People need coverage for obesity treatment — all evidence based treatments, not just surgery. There has to be something to also fill that void between diet/exercise and surgery. For that reason, I am urging your boss to sign Rep. Towns’ letter to HHS Secretary Sebelius to ensure that obesity treatments are covered as essential health benefits. There are lives out there that need saving. Everyone deserves the access that I was able to receive.
Link to Towns Sign-on Letter:
This past weekend I was in Las Vegas for the WLSFA’s Mother of All Meet and Greets. I had the pleasure of spending time with some old friends, and the honor of meeting some great new ones. I’m still trying to digest all that happened, so this post will be more a recap than a reflection, but hopefully enjoyable for those of you who were unable to make it.
Beth, Andrea, and I made the decision to fly in on Wednesday to maximize our time together. Living so far apart really is not convenient to our friendship! We were able to catch up a little and relax, then we planned to hit the ground running on Thursday. The conference was at the Palace Station Hotel and Casino, an off-strip location.
Okay, so maybe hitting the ground running was a bit of an exaggeration. We were all awake at 5:00 AM, Beth and I due to the time difference, and Andrea due to a migraine. (Yes, we really are a fun crowd.) After failing miserably to all back asleep, we got up, got ready, and headed downstairs for breakfast. Kudos to our waitress for understanding that Andrea uses superhuman amounts of Splenda and leaving a coffee cup full of yellow packets. Others would not be so wise.
On the agenda for the day was a visit to the strip. We were still a good two hours away from the first shuttle of the day, but we were too antsy to sit in the hotel for that long. Andrea still wasn’t feeling well, so she stayed behind to rest while Beth and I started to walk. Long story short, I took us on a little accidental detour through industrial Las Vegas. (Sorry, Beth!). Neither Beth nor her feet were too pleased with me. But, ultimately, we made it to our destination in one piece and even found Beth some new shoes on the strip that helped temporarily and will help a lot at future events.
The strip is always unbelievable to me, and this trip was no exception. I simply can’t believe how much decadence and expense is concentrated in that small area. The casinos, the hotels, the shopping, the restaurants. And the people partaking! After wandering for a while, we made it to our first destination, Fashion Show Mall, where we were supposed to meet Andrea, who was planning to take the hotel shuttle. Beth was on a mission to find specific garments for her guest appearance in Diva Taunia’s burlesque show, so we accomplished that and found her some comfier, sturdier shoes.
Then, we met up with Andrea and another WLSer, Linda, and started to wander the strip. We started at the Wynn, admiring the gorgeous flowers, both in and outside of the casino.
I had a little Sound of Music moment in the Wynn and, with Beth’s urging, spun around in the middle of the entrance. What can I say? I’m easily convinced. We window shopped in the boutiques of Chanel and Dior, watching others carry out bags with horribly expensive names on them. However, we were content to admire the gorgeous designs of the hotel for free, just taking pictures. The Wynn really was gorgeous.
From the Wynn, we went to the Palazzo and the Venetian, which are both attached. More expensive stores and gorgeous design. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant called I <3 Burgers, where I once again failed to even finish my half of a meal. Yes, at over two years out, I still have a good deal of restriction. Andrea and Beth can both attest to that.
We spent a lot of time in the Venetian, which is just gorgeous. We could have stood and listened to the gondoliers sing all day. However, none of us were willing to shell out the $16/person it cost to ride. That’s what happens when the broke bloggers travel to events. We watch and listen, but don’t partake. We spend our money on food and coffee, not entertainment.
By the time we were finished wandering through the Venetian, we were all exhausted. We tried to catch the shuttle back to the hotel, but the instructions on the website were flat-out wrong and outdated, so we ended up taking a cab.
After a little rest, we ventured downstairs for a quick dinner at Subway. (Thanks, Liz!) We took a quick stop at the penny slots, where I won $42 off of $2 borrowed from Andrea, so we both ended up $20 richer for the night. Later that night, we might Rob from Former Fat Dudes, who is just as nice a guy in real life as he is online. We all headed over to the Stratosphere to watch Ian from the BTV Forums literally jump off the top of the building to raise money for the WLSFA. Insane! Once that was over, the bad girls were more than ready to go to bed. After all, it was about 11:00 PM.
Friday ended up being another day on the strip day. This time, Andrea, Beth, and I were joined by Rob, Linda, and Shelly (Eggface), for even more fun! We picked up where we had left off, hitting Treasure Island, the Mirage, and the Bellagio (and probably even more that I’m forgetting). Once again, everything was just beautiful. I was especially fond of the gardens in the Bellagio. Some of my favorite pictures of the trip came from that location.
We didn’t stay out as long on Friday, as we had to go back to the hotel to get ready for the evening’s opening reception, sponsored by Celebrate Vitamins. Beth stole Andrea’s camera to take pictures of the event, and Andrea and I sat in the back with our soon-to-be favorite vendor, Amy of Slimpressions.
Friday evening saw many awards handed out and … a wedding! Diva Taunia and Rob got married! It was a very sweet ceremony and a happy occasion for all. After the wedding, there was some mingling. We didn’t stay too long, knowing that we would need to be back at 6:00 the next morning to set up our table.
And that 6:00 hour came quick. But the BBGC rose to the occasion, and our table looked great!
We had Click samples, WLS Vitagarten Lab Tracker Notebooks, BBGC advocacy sheets, and BBGC t-shirts and bracelets. Plus your cheery bariatric bad girls themselves! It was a blast talking to our fellow WLSers throughout the day. We had a great turnout at our table.
I also got to go over and model some Slimpressions shapewear on the BTV cameras during the day. I’ll have a full review later in the week, but I’ve got to tell you, this stuff is amazing! I was wearing Target shapewear before, and I thought it was doing a good job, but it doesn’t even begin to compare AT ALL. Not even close. You get what you pay for.
I realized partway through the event that I also officially had my master’s degree. I officially graduated with my M.A. in Political Science on Saturday. So, I’ve got letters behind my name. Not that they mean that much in the grand scheme of things since I’ll start work towards my Ph.D. in August, but still. I’ve got another degree.
After working the table all day, we grabbed dinner at the casino’s Mexican restaurant before heading upstairs to change for the evening’s gala, which was sponsored by Bariatric Advantage. It featured entertainment by the Diva Taunia Dolls (and some special guests, including Beth and Lynnda and Toni from BTV) and then some very loud music. The burlesque show was a hoot, but we ended up going somewhere a bit quieter with some new friends to chat instead of watching the drunken dancing that had started up toward the end.
Overall, I had a great time in Vegas. I was very sad to leave, mostly because of how hard it is for me to say goodbye to my dear friends. I talk to them every day, but it is not the same as being able to hug them or turn to them and ask a question.
For all of you that weren’t there, I wish you had been. It’s such a treat to meet online friends. I can’t wait to meet more of my virtual friends at this year’s OH events!
Shelly Binkley (@healthewoman) is a Utah OB-GYN with over 5,000 followers on Twitter. She has been named one of the 50 doctors to follow on the social networking site. But, earlier this week, she set off a frenzy when she tweeted the following:
A 5’2″ woman weighing 254 pounds today told me she eats “hardly anything.” I guess that might be true if “anything” means the whole cow.
While Binkley received support from some of her followers who felt that overweight people should control their food intake just like smokers should control their cigarettes, she also received quite the backlash.
One follower felt it was a betrayal of her patient’s trust:
To tweet that as a care provider? Completely unethical.
Others addressed the basic attitude of publicly mocking obesity on the Internet:
(Make sure to visit McNee over at Former Fat Dudes!)
Binkley’s response to the drama she started was rather dismissive:
Obesity is a complex problem, Dr. Binkley. We’re not going to fix it so simply, with just a pill or a procedure. And that’s coming from a girl who had bariatric surgery. You don’t wave a magic wand and watch your patient drop fifty pounds before your eyes. But mocking them in an online forum does no good either. It simply serves to make you feel superior.
The reality is that we know we are at. Usually, what you view as denial isn’t; it’s shame. Because we know we’re overweight. But it’s not an easy problem to fix. And the heavier you get? The more the odds are stacked against you. But the more likely society is to judge you as lazy and out of control. And, unfortunately for anyone who has been in that position, doctors are very much a part of society.
When you’re morbidly obese, doctors are apt to talk at you, rather than to you. You are your obesity, your medical problems, rather than a living, breathing human being. I’ve seen this change dramatically as I’ve lost the weight. I’ve somehow become a human again in the eyes of doctors. I get to have a voice, a say in my medical care. They ask me questions and listen to my answers.
Dr. Binkley claims her intention was to demonstrate the risks of obesity during pregnancy, when the fetus has no control over its mother’s eating habits. However, her tweet never mentioned that her patient was pregnant nor that she had any obesity-related health conditions. Instead, she raised the issue of the woman’s weight solely to poke fun at her eating habits, something that was wholly unnecessary and unethical.
Still, Binkley maintains her goals were benign:
I never meant to offend anyone, and I feel very sorry.
But what will she do when faced with obese patients in the future? Will she offer compassion or condemnation?
Source: KSL News
A UK report published by the National Bariatric Surgery Registry (NBSR) reports that four out of five weight loss surgery patients are female, meaning that only 20% of bariatric surgery recipients are men.