Happy Friday! Got big plans for the day? Cool, cool, sounds good. Me? Oh, nothing major. Just having a tube put down my throat to take photos of my stomach. You know, like you do. Why, you ask? Because life is a cruel, ironic joke sometimes, that’s why.
Alright, kiddos, I promised you more about my Adventures in Lapband Land last week, and being a woman of my word and also a lack of other topics to write about, here it is.
When we left off, I had just explained how the lapband works. Any questions? No? There will be a quiz later, so you guys better have this down pat. There is no extra credit.
Anyway, why did I choose the lapband and not gastric bypass? Gastric bypass has been around a lot longer than the lapband and I have seen first hand how dramatic the results are. It absolutely gets the weight off of you, and for many people, I truly believe it is a lifesaver. But it wasn’t for me.
I want to preface this by saying this is only MY opinion on things. If you have had GB, are considering it, or are even just curious about all this stuff, please do not take my opinion on things as fact or a judgment or anything other than just that: my opinion. I have an opinion on virtually everything (except basketball. I literally could not care less about anything to do with it. Don’t ever ask me about it. I will glaze over faster than a doughnut.), and my opinion on the different weight loss surgeries is worth as much as any of them: nothing.
So why not go with bypass, the tried and true method that, had I chosen it, would probably have seen my weight loss goal met in less than half the time I’ve had the lapband? There are several reasons:
- Despite being obese enough for weight loss surgery (WLS), I was at the time of my decision and still am, in excellent health. I was youngish, didn’t have a lifetime of obesity and other than sleep apnea and just being out of shape, I had no secondary health issues based on my weight. YET. But because of that, there was no sense of urgency for me to lose the weight.
- Malabsorption scares me. Malabsorption is defined as “having difficulty absorbing nutrients from food,” and can be a major side effect of GB. The reason why that really scared me is because in the year prior to deciding to have this surgery, my 38-year-old aunt died from Crohn’s Disease. One of the major issues leading to her very untimely death was malnutrition from the disease. My mom’s two baby brothers also suffer from Crohn’s. I am lucky that so far in my life, I have a gut of steel. I didn’t want to give myself an issue that many of my loved ones suffer from.
- I knew I wanted to have kids soon, and was afraid of how GB would affect that. I don’t know that it would have. But I liked that the lapband was adjustable, therefore allowing me to eat for 2 for a brief period of time and not derail my progress.
- If I screwed up and “cheated” with GB and gained my weight back, I don’t know that I could get it to work for me a second time. From what I understand (and please correct me if I’m wrong), you can stretch your stomach back out after having GB. I remember seeing an interview with Roseanne Barr after she had her surgery and had put back on a significant amount of weight. She basically said she just ate her way back to where she was. If self-control wasn’t an issue, I wouldn’t be writing this post, would I?
So that’s how I chose the lapband over GB. Not that the lapband doesn’t have it’s own set of problems as well. The weight loss is MUCH slower. It’s easy to plateau and really have nowhere else to go (any tighter and you can’t eat, any looser and you gain). There’s a THING in my body (which can kinda be a “pro,” too, if you like freaking people out. My port sticks out so much, and I can’t tell you how many times my OB FREAKED THE EFF OUT while poking around while I was pregnant, thinking the baby was punching her. If you ever want to see/feel it, just ask. Muwahahaha.) that is man-made. Many foods just will not be tolerated by the band (bye bye, sushi. I will miss you most of all.) You have to radically change HOW you eat, not just WHAT you eat.
Let me explain.
A nurse used a great metaphor once when describing how the band works in your body. Chronic overeating stretches your stomach out so much that it becomes really difficult to curb your appetite. So the lapband is turning your stomach from an 8-lane interstate to an old country road. You have to slow down, and you can’t handle nearly the traffic.
So this means my eating rules have changed. Here’s what I can and can’t do:
- Eat slowly, but don’t allow a meal to last more than 20-30 minutes. If I sit at the table for an hour, I’ll eat the same amount as before, it will just take longer and will be really boring by myself.
- Don’t drink and eat at the same time (this is actually really healthy for everyone and I recommend it), and avoid drinking for up to 30 minutes after a meal.
- CHEW CHEW CHEW. And chew. And chew.
- Take small bites.
- Learn what foods aren’t compatible and avoid them. For me, I really can’t handle spaghetti/angel hair, a lot of rice, a lot of bread, Chinese food (?) like at all, Brussels sprouts (again, ?), carbonated beverages and anything that is overly doughy, starchy or expanding. Here’s another metaphor: Imagine the esophagus and stomach like the disposal in your sink. If you cram a bunch of stuff down there that can kinda gum up, you will get a clog. Same with me. If I eat a few bites of, say, angel hair, I may take small bites and chew, but as it approaches the entrance to my stomach, it is expanding and becomes hard to pass through. But at first, I might not realize it, so I take another couple of bites, and the next thing you know, I need a plunger. Except they don’t make one for mouths, so I’m screwed
So what does happen if I break the rules and get a “clog,” if you will? Well, it’s not pretty, but it’s not staying around. We’ll leave it at that. Just like a drain with a hairball, pouring water on top of it just causes more pressure to build, so drinking something to “wash it down” not only won’t work, it’s extremely uncomfortable. Sometimes if I am patient, things work themselves out, but more times than not, I gotta fix the problem myself and bring the food back up. SORRY. Like you’ve never puked, get over it. Occasionally, if this happens, it’s no biggie, but if a lapband is too tight over time, you can damage your stomach by doing this too much. Plus, who wants to give themselves bulimia? Not me.
So that’s how it works. The lapband helps me eat slower and less but doesn’t actually affect my digestion, unless I screw up and then I puke. If I need the band loosened, I can get it loosened. And then when I need it tightened, I start over. In the 6 years I’ve had it, I may have lost 55 pounds slowly (due to 2 pregnancies, 1 year-long nursing stint and almost a year of no insurance when I didn’t get any adjustments at all), but if you take away the pregnancy weight, I haven’t gained and held on to a pound at all. In 6 years. How many of you can say that, honestly?
So I’m a work in progress. The lapband is just one tool in my toolbox, as any weight loss surgery should be. There is no such thing as a quick fix. Nobody will lose weight and keep it off unless they change their life. Period. Are you ready?
This week, I reacquainted myself with one of the greatest tools I have in my weight loss arsenal: my lapband.
I mentioned in my first post about losing weight that 6 months after my wedding, I underwent lapband surgery, also knows as Laparoscopic Gastric Banding or Adjustable Gastric Banding. I realized this week on my way to my appointment with my bariatric doctor that I have never written about my experience and how I came to the decision to undergo the procedure. I am coming up on my sixth anniversary of having it, so now is as good a time as any, I suppose.
Less than a year before I had the surgery, I had never even heard of the “lapband” before. I had heard of gastric bypass before, thanks to such notable celebrities who had undergone that surgery, like Roseanne Barr, Carnie Wilson and Al Roker, to name a few. And even though I knew I was overweight (ok, OBESE is the preferred nomenclature), I had never even considered gastric bypass. It just seemed like something, well, celebrities did.
Everything changed for me one day while I was working as an editor at a paper in Virginia. I was copy editing a syndicated advice column, and the question of the week was about the lapband procedure. It grabbed my attention and I knew I had found hope.
For those that don’t fully understand what exactly I am yammering on about, let me give it to you in layman’s terms, the only terms I know:
- You must be morbidly obese for at least 5 years to be eligible for the procedure. Yay for my commitment to fatness.
- No form of bariatric (fancy word for “weight loss) surgery is a “quick” or “easy” fix. It’s not. If you don’t change your habits to a healthier lifestyle, it Will. Not. Work. It might work in the short term, but I promise you will gain it back if you don’t play by the rules.
- Gastric bypass is a much faster and much more dramatic weight loss procedure. MUCH.
- The lapband is not fully permanent, meaning if for any reason there was a complication, you could technically have it removed.
And what is this “it” I speak of? Well, let me show and tell you:
OK, so there’s my stomach. Well, not MY stomach, I have never had an organ artistically rendered. That I know of. Let’s pretend that’s my stomach. So on the day of my surgery, my surgeon made 5 small incisions around my abdomen, and with these long stick things (the official name of them), attached a belt, or band, to the top of my stomach. Attached the band is a tube, and at the end of the tube is a “port,” which was sewn into my abdominal wall (did I mention this is kinda graphic? Not too gross, but I’m being honest). The procedure took about 45 minutes and I was home by the end of the day.
OK, so now what? Well, here’s where the “adjustable” part comes in. Inside the band is what I like to think of as a Ziploc bag, but it’s probably something a bit fancier. Anyway, the band is lined with some sort of plastic bag type thing that holds up to 11cc of saline (some hold less, I think. There are different kinds.), which the doctor fills with saline that he injects into my port. What?
- The adjustments, or “fills” as those of us in the know call them, consist of my doctor numbing my port site (the worst part. Why are numbing shots so damn painful??) and injecting a huge needle into the port (which does not hurt with or without the numbing) and then standing me up in front of a moving X-ray machine. He then begins injecting saline into the port, which then makes the band tighter around my stomach. Then I drink some barium (vom) and watch it go down the old hatch and empty into my stomach (which is always cool).
- A patient returns for fills every 6 weeks or so until you reach the “sweet spot” where you are losing 1-2 pounds a week but can still eat solid foods.
When I got pregnant with Simon, I went in and had all my saline removed so that I could eat
like a damn pig normally for my pregnancy. Wednesday was my return to the lapband world, and I am STOKED to see how the lapband combined with the gym and counting calories works. I am hoping this is the winning trifecta for me.
I would like to talk more about my experience with lapband, and why I chose it over gastric bypass, etc., but this is getting long as it is, so I am going to write more about this later. And if anyone has any questions about the lapband or is considering it for themselves, please contact me! I love talking about it, just like I love talking about everything in my life. You can email me at email@example.com.