Monthly Archives: June 2014

Let’s Start With the Truth and We’ll See Where it Goes From There

One of my four principles for success with gastric bypass, and perhaps for any weight loss or weigh management attempt is to learn to be brutally honest – both with yourself and with others. I contend that nobody gets to weigh 400+ pounds without lying to themselves and others a great deal. Everyday. About everything.

Some lies are small, such as telling yourself that clothing manufactures must have begun labeling their products smaller and smaller – that is, what used to be an Extra Large is now labeled Large, hence your need to move up to a 2XL. The clothing has just gotten smaller you assure yourself. Other lies are bigger, such as telling your spouse that it wasn’t you that ate the entire pizza (must have been the refrigerator gremlins… and besides, you drank a diet soda with it and therefore didn’t really get all the calories you might have, had you not been so responsible!).

Deep inside we all know what causes weigh gain… taking in more calories than you burn up. It has been that way since the beginning of time. Its simple math. We know it, we just don’t like it, and therefore invent convenient alternate truths to avoid dealing with it. We deny. We lie. And along the way we willingly allow ourselves to be seduced by fad diets, magic weight loss pills, and “no exercise, eat what you want, miracle weight loss programs” that sell for three easy payments of $49.95!

In 2008 my mother passed away. A very old friend that I hadn’t seen in over 20 years read her obituary and showed up at the funeral home to pay respects. Al was always in good shape, but here 20 years later, at 52 years old, he looked exactly as he did at 32, trim and healthy. During those same 20 years I had gone from being 30 pounds overweight, to 150 pounds overweight. I had tried several fad diets, a medical supervised diet, started and stopped many exercise programs, and was fighting depression about my weight. One sight of Al and all I could think of was: “What’s his secret?” I will never forget both the look on his face and the sound of his voice when he answered that question with “I eat right and exercise.”

Not what I wanted to hear. No magic pill? No miracle exercise program (that only takes 5 minutes a day without sweat)? Lie to me Al. I’ll lie to myself later and convince myself that you are the lucky beneficiary of fantastic genes, or that you must have some physical condition that keeps you thin and trim. No Bill, nothing like that, just simple math and the courage to be truthful with yourself.

I would gain another 70 pounds over the next two years before I allowed myself to hear the truth… before I started telling myself and others the truth – I eat more calories than I burn up. By then I was over 400 pounds and it was nearly too late. But the truth was, and is, that if you want to manage your weight, to lose excess weight and keep up that weight loss for life, there is only one truth you need to focus on and it is this: You must manage the calories you take in and the calories your body burns.

There should be nothing new here for anyone that struggles with weight issues. Sure there can be complications that make living this truth harder for you than for others… diabetes, heart conditions, and other physical ailments can make it hard to restrict calorie intake or exercise to burn calories. But the truth is still the truth.

These days I give plenty of people their own ‘Al’ moment… people I haven’t seen in a while walk up to me in amazement at my transformation. They last saw me at 400+ pounds and now see me at half that weight. They always ask, as I did to Al, “How did you do it?” And I always answer with two truths, “I burn up more calories than I consume, and I do that with the assistance of gastric bypass.”

I’d like to hear about your experiences.

The Joys of Making and Drinking Fruit Smoothies

I have recently discovered the joys of making and drinking fruit smoothies. In fact I’m drinking a strawberry and banana smoothie as I write this.

I really haven’t been able to eat fruit since my GB surgery. Something about the bulk of most fruits – especially the fruits that I liked best such as watermelon and cantaloupe – made them feel as if they were stuck in my throat, unable to be swallowed. Needless to say, this is not a good feeling and I often threw-up any fruit that I dared to eat.

As said, my favorite fruits are watermelon and cantaloupe.  I also love strawberries, blueberries, grapes of all sorts, kiwi, peaches, pineapple, plumbs and pears. While not my favorite, I certainly have had and enjoyed plenty of grapefruit, apples, bananas, cherries, raspberries, and oranges in my life, and some of the more exotic fruits such as mango, pomegranate or papaya.

One problem with not eating fruits, especially considering the special needs of the GB patient (getting needed levels of vitamins, calcium, protein and other nutrients while eating very small meals from limited food options), is that you lose out on a great source of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and many phyto-nutrients (plant derived micronutrients).

Making a fruit smoothie isn’t exactly rocket science. You blend fruit with milk and/or juice and ice in a blender and you’ve got a drink that is – depending on the ratios of fruit, ice and liquid you use – anywhere from an easy flowing cold drink, to a rich smoothie you drink with a straw, to a thick shake that eats better with a spoon.

To this basic formula (and let me just say that there is nothing wrong with the simplest of smoothies – you can whip one up quick, with little mess and easy clean up) you can add a range of ingredients to introduce flavors, foods or supplements that bring specific nutrients or vitamins ( protein powders), low-cal sweeteners, thickeners, low-fat puddings, or low carb/sugar yogurt.

Several times during the years since my surgery I’ve been motivated to find a way to consume fruits – to add them to my meal options and gain from their nutritional gifts.

One of the limiting factors I dealt with trying to make fruit smoothies is that all I had to work with was a $39.99 “BlueLight special” blender. It wasn’t strong enough to crush ice to a size less than ¼ inches cubes (too big to be the ‘smooth’ required for a ‘smoothie’), or fully pulverize the fruit and other ingredients.

I tried juicing to meet my fruit-sourced nutrition targets. I purchasing the ‘gold standard’ of juicing, the Champion, a 30 pound heavy motor driven appliance that looks a bit like a jet engine off a 747 and sounds like one while tearing apart all varieties of fruit, separating the juice from the skin, seeds, core, fibers and stems. The Champion is great. You can turn pounds of grapes into a gallon of grape juice, or a bushel of apples into a fountain of apple juice.

One problem with both of the old blender and the juicer is that they make a mess and need more clean up time than I’d like. With the juicer you have all the separated pulp and bulk that needs to be scraped and washed off.

Another problem with both is that I don’t really need gallons of any fruit juice.   I can’t drink gallons at a time, nor would I want to drink gallons of raw fruit juice (imagine that stomach ache!). I’m looking to gain the nutritional gifts of fruit, not fill a swimming pool.

So it was with great excitement that I received the Ninja food blender/processor as a gift from my wife for Christmas this year. The Ninja addresses the two needs described above – the design is easy to make a single serving smoothie and the appliance is easy to clean and I use it several times a day to make Colleen and I a variety of delicious, healthy and nutritionally valuable shakes and smoothies.

With a little patience, creativity, adaptability, experimentation and a wish to find a way to feed your body the vitamins and nutrients it needs to deliver for you, there is no reason a GB patient can’t eat as healthy and enjoyably as anyone. It’s not always easy, but it sure is worth it – and you can do it! Enjoy.