Why I want to be a gastric band nurse blogger

Helloooo!!! and…..           

Welcome to my first ‘blog’!  I’m new to blogging but not at all new to the ‘Lapband’ world, obesity, health and fitness.  I have worked for many (…I won’t admit to how many) years as a Registered Nurse.  I spent the first half of my career in  ICU and cardiovascular ICU which to me was “the big show”.  Running codes, titrating life-saving drugs, coping with daily crisis’, dealing with death and its impact on grieving  families..to me it didn’t get much more rewarding than that.  That was until I entered the world of obesity.

I remember when I took the job as a “Lapband nurse” wondering what the heck a Lapband was and where this was going to lead me ( for convenience sake I usually refer to the gastric band as a ‘Lapband’ which is a registered TM of Allergan, the band I am most familiar with).  I was already working in the field of obesity, nursing and weight loss and I looked at this as a job to do until I found what I REALLY wanted to do.  That was 6 years and nearly 4000 patients ago.

Who’da Thought?…

I have to say I have never worked in a more challenging and yet rewarding position.  Not in a million years did I think that this would be the path my nursing career would take.  I am so fortunate in that I work at a fantastic clinic with surgeons and staff who truly care about our patients.  The patients I have had the privilege of meeting on this journey are nothing short of amazing and remarkable.  These people have let me into their lives and allowed me to share in their joys and their sorrows.  We have celebrated together their successes and triumphs and worked at overcoming their obstacles and their feelings of defeat.  I know that this is a lifelong journey and not always an easy one.


Success with weight loss, with or without a band, depends largely on knowledge and the support an individual receives. If losing weight were only about feeling hungry than obesity would not be the epidemic it has become.  There are SO many factors influencing why a person eats (is it hunger? emotions? boredom? social pressure? genetic mutation? hormonal imbalance?…the reasons are endless and unique to each individual) and thankfully the research being done in this field is expanding rapidly.


I think what angers and frustrates me most with so much of our ‘regular size’ population is the lack of knowledge and understanding behind why so many suffer from being overweight.  For many they still don’t see obesity as the disease that it is but rather as a choice and a weakness.  No one condemns a diabetic for having a faulty pancreas, no one attaches a negative label to the person with high blood pressure…unless of course they are fat.  And then it is often seen as their ‘fault’ because they lack self-control, lack willpower and are lazy.  I know, and the obese individual knows that this is anything but true.  Nobody wants to be overweight.  Nobody wants to have aching joints, high blood pressure, diabetes and the countless other co-morbidities that go with obesity.  The sooner we change the way obesity is viewed, both by the normal-weight and the overweight population, the sooner we will be able to work at making strides towards helping the people who suffer from this disease.  And we will be able to do it in a manner that is effective and maintains a persons dignity.

My Goals…

I want to share with people the things I have learned about the gastric band and how it works, within my scope of practise as a Registered Nurse.  I want to help people live successfully with their bands based on the knowledge I have accrued thus far in my career.  I in no way deem to take the place of an individuals physician and specific health related questions must always be taken back to a persons physician.  I just want to pass my knowledge along, and share information on diet, nutrition and exercise.  Perhaps most importantly I want to be a motivator and source of support for people who have been handed this challenge in life.

Stay With Me…

As this blog grows I hope that people will be educated, motivated and entertained.  I welcome feedback and look forward to this new adventure!  Obesity is a rotten disease…but then I don’t know of a good disease do you?  But it can be beaten.  It takes knowledge, it takes hard work it takes perseverance and it needs to be taken one step at a time.  Sometimes those are baby steps.  But stay with me and I know we can do this together.

Yours in Health and Fitness,


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I Challenge You…

wally  Yesterday I heard someone at our clinic say to a patient ‘your next appointment is in four months so that will be June’…and my heart got just a little bit lighter :).  ONLY four months until the glorious month of June HALLELUJAH!!

Having said that I do rather enjoy the break that winter brings.  There is no guilt about the messy garage, the weeds that need pulling, the outside repairs that need to be done.  It’s kind of a time to enjoy some enforced hibernation.

It’s easy however to let a little bit of hibernation turn into a state of ‘Lackawana’…as in ‘Lackawanna-do-anything’.  It’s cold, it stays dark late and gets dark early…what the heck let’s just hit snooze one more time.  This can be a very slippery slope and quite honestly, I’ve had many many patients say that winter brings on the blues for them.

I’ve blogged before on my beloved ‘fourth child’ Wally.  He was a part of our family for nearly 15 years.  Last August we had to make the very difficult decision to put Wally out of his suffering.  I miss that little fellow every day and although I’ve sworn never to get another dog I have started babysitting friend’s dogs and have even been snapchatting pictures of random cute dogs I see to my kids…that just might be blurring the lines between normal and creepy!!

I don’t just miss Wally’s companionship but I miss the fact that he forced me to get outside and get some daily exercise, enjoy nature, smell the fresh air, do some uninterrupted reflecting upon various earth shattering, mind altering topics (‘I really should give tofu a chance but it’s just so slimy’…’I wonder if we actually do swallow 7 spiders in our sleep a year?’…)

The other day I took a walk through the beautiful marsh we live close to and realized I hadn’t ventured in since we’d lost Wally!  It was so refreshing to feel the cold air hit my lungs, feel my body warm up as my heart rate increased and analyze and fix all the world’s problems in 45 minutes (recently read that Madonna had thought about ‘blowing up the White house’…that’s a bit extreme but the word ‘impeachment’ has a nice ring to it).  I realized after my walk how good it felt to have all those endorphins surging through me and how much I had missed my daily walks.

It’s easy to get complacent, especially in the cold, dark months of winter.   It takes a bit of initiative and let’s face it hard work to get motivated to do too much.  But remember physical activity is part of the Three-Legged Lap band stool that I’ve blogged about before that is essential to success with not only weight loss but healthy living (the other two legs are ‘food’: right amounts, eaten in the right way and ‘head’: having your head in the game).

If you have turned into a bit of a couch potato since the temperatures started to drop, I challenge you to take the ’10 Minute Challenge’.  Commit yourself to getting active for at minimum 10 minutes daily.  C’mon, ANYONE can commit to that!  After 10 minutes, you can happily allow yourself  to stop, knowing that you got yourself moving (and something is better than nothing) or you can challenge yourself to keep going, stopping whenever you choose to.  I guarantee you (and this is a no-gimmick-time-limited-money-back guarantee) that after 10 minutes you will feel better, you will continue past 10 minutes and you will want to do it again…OR YOUR MONEY BACK!!!  Now who can resist a deal like that I ask you??

Don’t beat yourself up if you have grown roots these past few months, we all do it.  But make a promise to yourself that you are going to get moving starting immediately ( I like the quote “You don’t get the @ss you want by sitting on it” ;))

Yours in Health, Happiness, and having that ground hog see his shadow 🙂




Posted in education, lap-band, obesity, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

What I Learned this Summer…

Hellooo…long time no see!!  It’s been awhile since img_8249my last blog and all I’ve got to offer as means of an excuse is the proverbial boring one of “I’ve been busy!!”  I’ve missed blogging though. It’s something I’ve always found relaxing yet energizing and extremely therapeutic.

So why such a busy summer you (may or may not) ask? Well hubby and I rather unexpectedly found ourselves in possession of a fourplex vacation rental property.  Having never been ‘landlords’ before we were suddenly thrown into a summer filled with many many new experiences…some good, some not so good and some downright weird (Chrissy the 100 lb Vietnamese pot-bellied pig immediately comes to mind. I guess for some the condition ‘no pets’ doesn’t include pigs.  Not even joking. She can actually come back as long as she leaves her owner at home).

Being a landlord means doing some dirty jobs such a fixin’ stuff, cleaning gross things, emptying people’s garbage /recycling. It’s not for the lazy, the squeamish or the princess’s out there let me tell you.  One thing I’ve found is that you learn a lot about people by having to sort through their garbage and recycling!  So I am going to title this blog:  ‘What I Learned this Summer by Sorting Through Complete Strangers Sh*t’.

First off:   The average Canadian does not know how to recycle properly!!  Not the reason for this blog just a reason to rant…GRRRR

Second:  People are drinking WAAAAAAAAY too much water from disposable water bottles…whatever number you might imagine in your head…double, maybe even triple that number.  Again not the reason for the blog but its giving me nightmares 😦

Finally:  a lot of people consume a lot of crap, a lot of alcohol and don’t move their bodies near enough while on vaca.  I know what you might be thinking ‘but that’s what vacation is FOR…eatin’ drinkin’ relaxin’.   Ya and no.  I have to figure that anyone who is reading this blog is interested in weight loss/healthy lifestyle.  And the key word here is lifestyle  A healthy lifestyle is something that is adopted and implemented every day.  It is or becomes your way of life.  Not something that is done some of the time, not something that is done most of the time but something that is done all of the time.

People who live a healthy lifestyle make a point of choosing to eat healthy foods in healthy portion sizes and they move their bodies daily, in a vigorous way for at least 30 minutes.  And they make a point of doing this pretty much every day; even on vacation, even on weekends, even during the holiday seasons.

Sometimes I will chat with patients and they will say ‘you know I did so well all week, I lost 2 lbs and then the weekend came and I’m right back up’.  Or ‘ I worked my @ss off, lost 10 lbs in the past few months, went on vacation for two weeks and gained 5 lbs back’.  That is heartbreaking and often why patients become discouraged and give up.  Because it IS a lot of work to lose weight.  And unfortunately it is 10 x’s easier to gain it back.

As I always say to patients and in my webinars:  Losing weight means a lifestyle change.  For some it is a minor change, for others it’s a major overhaul.  But it IS do-able.

The first step is to look at the three necessary components  (eating healthy foods, eating smaller portions, moving vigorously daily) not as something that is done most of the time but something that is done all of the time, every day just like brushing your teeth.

The second step is not to fight this.  And I find some patients do fight it.  They look at this lifestyle change not as a choice but as a punishment…and they are angry that they have to make this change.  I remember clearly a patient at a support group, who didn’t start losing weight until 3 years after her bariatric surgery.  She said that for three years she fought her gastric band, was angry that she had this tool, even though she had obviously chosen to have surgery.  Despite what she was told in her consult and what she was educated on pre and post op, she had thought she would be able to lose weight without changing many of her bad habits.  Finally, she had her ‘aha moment’ and stopped fighting her band and looked at it not as ‘the enemy’ but as an accomplice to help her live a better life.

And I think the third step is to be patient with yourself.  Take it one day at a time, and gradually this ‘new lifestyle’ will just be ‘your lifestyle’.  And the way you feel, move and live will be worth every ‘sacrifice’ you have made.

Yours in health, happiness and LEARNING HOW TO RECYCLE  PROPERLY!!!

Sue J

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image1It seems surreal that I am sitting on a beautiful sandy beach in Mexico while back home they are preparing for a major snow storm.  My hubby and I treated ourselves to a much needed winter break and are enjoying our last full day of paradise …tomorrow sadly it’s back to reality (or maybe not if this snow storm comes!).

‘Reality’:  work, laundry, cooking, cleaning and by the sounds of it some snow shovelling  ARGHH!!  The one thing I AM actually looking forward to getting back to is…regular eating.  The thing with all-inclusives is that no matter how hard you try, you allllways over indulge.  It’s human nature. When there’s SO MUCH good stuff begging to be sampled…how can you not?!!

We’ve been pretty good with going to the gym regularly and walking the beach twice a day to try to offset some of the excess but as we all know…it’s what we put in our mouths that matters most.

I’m always pumped when a fresh post op patient asks ‘and when can I get back to the gym?’ because that question speaks volumes about a persons lifestyle.  At the other end of the spectrum I despair when a patient tells me ‘I gave up exercising because it didn’t help me lose one pound!’  Exercising or as I prefer to look at it ‘staying active’ has to be a part of our everyday life.  Just as we (hopefully) wouldn’t skip brushing our teeth or putting on deodorant daily, so too should we not skip staying active.  

I’ve written about activity/exercise  before because I am absolutely passionate about getting people to move their bodies.  Like other things many of us enjoy…the more you ‘practise’ fitness the better it gets (I was referring to say, a second language…or a musical instrument, what were you thinking?? ;)).

I know that for some folks just the idea of starting an activity plan can seem like a tall order. Combine that with sore joints, busy schedules and it’s easy to put it on the (very) back burner, to think ‘oh I’ll start tomorrow’. But as we all know so often ‘tomorrow’ never comes and a day turns to a week turns to a month and still no progress on the fitness front.

So for those who are just starting out I’m going to put forward a few suggestions/ideas to hopefully help get things moving:

First:  do something you enjoy. If you don’t like gyms don’t waste your money joining one.

Second: Put some money towards a GOOD pair of running shoes AND moisture wicking workout wear that contains Lycra/spandex (treat yourself, you deserve it).

Third: Do whatever it is you enjoy and do it often…do it daily.  It doesn’t have to be all at once as in 45 minutes of hard cardio at the end of a hard day!  Every bit of loose change adds up.  So this could mean a brisk 10 minute walk in the morning,  doing a few flights of stairs on your lunch hour and busting some sweet moves to three of your favorite heart pumping tunes on your iPod in the  evening (‘Burning Love’ by Elvis!!…c’mon you can’t NOT dance to that its not humanly possible). Remember: something is better than nothing!

Fourth:  Switch it up (here is where I myself am suuuuch a hypocritical creature of habit…but  I’m working on that). Routines become just that…routine. Not only that but our bodies stop responding when we do the same ol’ same ol’.

And finally: Don’t look at exercise/staying active/moving your body as a way to lose weight. Look at it as a way to live more richly and fully in your skin and in the world. I honestly can’t understand why someone who can move would choose not to.  Just walking is a great way to start.

And as I finish this I realize it’s time for my morning walk because omgosh LUNCH is only a couple of hours away!!  It’s a very very good thing this week is almost over!!  You know what my husband had on his plate along with his stacked omelet this morning?  Fried chicken…”wha? It’s PROtein”. Mhmmm just like my daily espresso ice cream is ‘dairy’ 😉
Yours in health, happiness and the hopes of a snow storm :):)Sue

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Sugar and Spice…one of these ain’t so nice!

2016-02-01 new storage 356The picture for this blog is my husbands bedside table:  couple of books, a pen, and a Purdy’s chocolate Santa.  Nothing that unusual I suppose except we are now past the next dreaded holiday for the chocoholic, that being Valentines Day…AND THAT CHOCOLATE SANTA REMAINS RIGHT WHERE I PUT IT ON BOXING DAY!!  Forgotten and ignored (except by moi of course).  As long as that Santa stays on HIS side of the room UNOPENED then it is relatively safe from me.

What is it about chocolate and sweets that makes them so  irresistible to some people?    With my daughter away I currently live in a home dominated by males and never do I hear the wail ‘Ohhhh I need chocolate!!’…except when it escapes my lips.  From my experience, and this is a purely unscientific observation, the craving for this particular carb seems to afflict more women than men.

I truly believe that we all exist on a teeter-totter type continuum in terms of sugar and sweet cravings.  Some people have no desire for sweets (that would be my husband…level 0.5 ) and others peak at level 10.  Most of us are probably somewhere in between.  I would put myself at 6.5.  What I find is that if I don’t start eating sugar I am ok, however once that drug (and many experts do classify sugar as a drug) hits my body/bloodstream/brain…the craving for more starts.

There are so many theories behind the cause of this, just google ‘sugar addiction’ and the results are endless and alarming to say the least.   One theory I read that I found interesting in terms of sugar addiction (and in this case women) comes from Dr. Mariam Asuku of Toronto.  She is among many who believe that this addiction is related to levels of neurotransmitters and receptors in our brain.   Chocolate increases the levels of the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter serotonin and many women experience lowered serotonin levels in the ‘pms’ stage of their menstrual cycle…and hence the craving for anything chocolate.

That is only one theory there are countless.  There is a fascinating study though done by Dr. Serge Ahmed, a scientist with the University of Bordeaux in France which shows that when rats were given a choice of sugar or cocaine a whopping 94 percent of the rodents wanted sugar not cocaine!  (I’m imagining a conversation between lab rats…’Algernon that lucky b*stard gets picked for the sugar/cocaine study and I get the Parkinsons!!’)

So that’s all great to ponder, but what can we do about it?  Because of the awful effects that sugar can have on our bodies (insulin resistance, heart disease, type 11 diabetes, cancer, obesity…not to mention rotten teeth to name  just a few in a very long list) we have to start somewhere.  Personally I suggest for most people, start with ‘baby steps’.  I think that when we put something in the ‘no fly’ zone it can make it all that more seductive and hard to resist.  Below are some ideas that I’ve put together, both my own and from experts that may help in dealing with sugar cravings:

  • Be aware of hidden sources of sugar, read labels.  So called healthy foods like granola bars, instant oatmeal, breakfast cereal, yogurt to name a few, can be chock full of sugar
  • Avoid processed foods, cook ‘clean’ whenever and as often as possible
  • Reach for fruit; you’ll get fiber and nutrients and natural sweetness
  • Get moving:  go for a walk, take your mind off the food you are craving
  • EAT REGULARLY.  This helps to regulate your blood sugar and prevents the highs and lows that can make us yearn for sweets
  • Boost your serotonin levels naturally by getting plenty of sleep, exercising regularly and enjoying a healthy diet
  • Don’t have sugary foods/treats in your home, car or work place…if you can’t resist ’em don’t buy ’em!
  • Drink lots of water:  sometimes a craving for sugar is actually masking signs of dehydration
  • Chew gum (sugar-free duh! :))

Do your best every day and don’t beat yourself up if you relapse.  Some experts suggest going ‘cold turkey’ saying that after 48-72 hours once the drug, sugar, is out of our system we won’t crave it anymore.  From speaking with several patients who have done this they report that this is true:  after they get through the first rough bit (and many experienced side effects of withdrawal such as headaches and irritability) they no longer craved the stuff.  Others suggest as I mentioned, the ‘baby steps’ approach.  Really it has to be whatever works for you.  Clearly though with all the research out there we HAVE to limit the amount of sugar we are putting into our mouths and the drive to do this HAS to come from our awareness of what this drug does to our bodies.

Oiy…and I just realized…Easter is just around the corner :(:(.  I’m going to try if you’ll try ok??  Personally I’m going to take the baby-steps approach and my first steps are going to take me right upstairs to my husbands Santa and its going in my mouth…I MEANT THE GARBAGE…PROMISE 🙂

Yours in Health and Happiness,




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Holiday Health

xmas image (2)My feet are starting to get wet.  Soon the water will creep up to my ankles, then mid calf and onwards and upwards.   It is the beginning of
December and I’m starting to get that ‘drowning’ feeling.  It actually started on Black Friday when I hit the mall at 6 a.m. XL coffee in hand and comfortable boots on feet (bony elbows poised and ready to strike hehehe…not really, we Canadians are way too polite for that nonsense 😊).

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Christmas but why is it that the holiday season always seems to bring on stress?  It’s supposed to be one of the most pleasant times of the year, and yet despite best everyone’s efforts it often seems to turn into one of the most stressful.

Perhaps part of it is due to the unrealistic expectations we put on ourselves and have of others.  There’s the decorating, the shopping, the baking, the visiting, the entertaining and the list goes on and on.  Combine that with family and work and OY THE WATER IS UP TO MY KNEES WHERE ARE MY WATER WINGS??!!!  Seriously, as I write this I’m feeling myself get worked up.

I think that part of the problem during the Christmas season is we over schedule, plan too much and fail to take care of ourselves.  A good friend said to me recently that she doesn’t understand why we pack everything into the 31 days of December.  Why not spread the fun around???  Lets face it January/February SUCKS and who couldn’t use a good party then?!  I agree however no one else seems to.

So what to do to stay physically and mentally happy during this wonderful month?  Well I propose we make a plan and stick to it.   Remember ‘ A Goal Without a Plan is just a Wish’…fav saying 😊.  Make a plan, write it down, and post it where you will be forced to look at it daily.  Here is what I am going to put on my list:

  1. be nice
  2. get enough sleep (definitely impacts likelihood of fulfilling #1)
  3. don’t over spend (should have started this list last week…)
  4. stay hydrated (no…wine/beer do not count)
  5. stay active daily (every hour of walking burns 100 calories)
  6. eat lots of veggies (without sour cream and /or butter)
  7. don’t graze
  8. limit alcohol (one glass of wine = 400 calories, lets be honest now…who sticks to 5oz?)
  9. be nice (it gets harder as the month progresses)
  10. HAVE FUN…walk/drag the dog (dear sweet Wally), dance, laugh!
  11. indulge occasionally but responsibly…and enjoy every second of it (but remember this:  one Starbucks peppermint mocha: 440 calories…that’s a loooong walk)
  12. love my ‘neighbour’ ( I mean ‘mankind’…don’t want to start any neighbourhood gossip that I haven’t earned), even those that are a bit trickier to love…

This year I propose we make a vow to each other.  Repeat after me:   I (name goes here; if we’re gonna do this lets make it official) solemnly vow I will not get unduly stressed during the holidays.  I will have realistic expectations of myself and others.  I will celebrate the season joyously and not sweat the small stuff.   I will take care of myself.   

We have so much to be thankful for living in this country.  I wish all of you the very very best of the Christmas season and a year full of love, health and happiness,


Sue xo

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Four Letter Words that start with ‘F’…

 What is a four letter word that starts with ‘f’, that is baaaad, and that should you say it in front of your Lap-band nurse you risk getting a virtual ‘mouth washed out with soap’ or hand slap?
If you guessed “full” then 3 gold stars and you get to take the hamster home for the weekend!! (and to all you Little Johnnies out there shame on you!! :)).
Why is it that so many people are seeking to feel full after a meal?  Why do many think that until they feel full, they have not eaten enough?  That unless they feel full their Lap-band is not working.  That when they feel full they should stop eating.  There are many ideas behind why, a few being: ‘full’ means ‘I won’t go hungry’, ‘full’ means ‘love’, ‘full’ means my band is well adjusted.  All of these ideas are wrong.
The problem with ‘looking for full’ is that to get there you have to eat too much.  Remember it takes approximately 20 minutes for our brains to recognize ‘full’.  By the time you feel full you will already have eaten too much.  You have to stop eating before you feel full to recognize satiety, that wonderful feeling of being satisfied but not stuffed.
This gets me thinking of the most recent feasting holiday of Thanksgiving.  If I had stopped after my initial plate, wherein I had enjoyed a little sampling of all my fav’s (skipped the vile sweet potato…I’m sorry but brown sugar and cinnamon belong in the apple crisp NOT the veg) and STOPPED…then I would not have ended up on the couch with the rest of my family with that horrible over-stuffed feeling.
 And that’s what it comes down to as well:  FULL is never a GOOD feeling.  Its a gross, yucky, uncomfortable, unbuckle your pants, gas creating, sleep inducing, guilt evoking feeling.  So whyyyyyyyyy do we do it???  No not because ‘we are pigs’ (no negative self-talk).  Because we are human and we nearly always want a little more of a good thing.  But all too often too much of a good thing be it sunshine, alcohol, food, even exercise can lead to problems.  Life should be about moderation and life with the band is most definitely about moderation where food is concerned.
So how do we stop this habit of chasing the feeling of full?  I follow a blog by Terrie Simpson (check him out) and he wrote a good little blog a few weeks ago on why people who look to feel full often end up with problems with their bariatric surgery and weight loss, in the case of the band: pouch dilatation, slippage, weight plateau.  He had a few ideas in his blog that we always tell our patients as well ( he’s good, but we’re just as good :)).  They are:
1. Have a full glass of water or beverage (tea, coffee, broth) before you eat your meal
2. Resolve to have one full serving of vegetables
3. If dining out ask the waiter to bring you half your meal on your plate and half in a take away container
And always think of ‘full’ as a baaaaaaad  4 letter word that only baaaaaad @ss Little Johnny has as a part of his vocabulary.
Yours in health, happiness and moderation (Christmas is coming…),


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Vacation Survival Tips from the Griswalds

IMG_6072As I wrote this blog I was enjoying the views offered by eastern Canada while knocking ‘Family RV Road Trip’ off my bucket list :).  This summer we had the great fortune to be able to experience an amazing family vacation in a 32 ft moving home and what a wonderful adventure and social experience it was!

I have to say I did have a few fears and reservations as us Griswalds pulled out of the driveway that August morning (with more than a couple of neighbours watching) hence I refer to this vacation not only as an adventure but as a  ‘social experience’ as well.

Understand my spouse and kids are quite large. They range in height from 5’9 to 6’5 and in shoes from size 10 (much to my daughters horror when she reached grade 6) to size 13.  Not a big deal if they each brought just a pair of flip flops or two but it’s the ‘size of a small dog’ hiking boots that nearly killed me (literally).  And speaking of pet dogs we also brought along Wally our beloved 12 year old pooch. No not because we love him so much we couldn’t bear to leave him behind but because he is blind, deaf and has a touch of dementia…his daily cocktail of liquid Gravol and Benadryl managed to keep ALL of us in a much calmer state (and yes we do love him very much :)).

We had many many laughs and made some unforgettable memories while cohabiting amicably in a very very very did I mention very small space for nearly two weeks.

So there were two things that my husband and I noticed were surprisingly easy to be ‘good’ at while away:  food choices and exercise…something we all assumed would be a real challenge.

When looking at the food choices it was really a factor of two things. First off, living with a two burner stove top and barbecue didn’t allow for Martha Stewartesque meals (not that I roll that way anyway), and second it’s really hard to go through a drive-thru or find a parking spot at a nice restaurant in a 32 footer.   Now don’t get me wrong we ate well and we ate often but it was a lot of good healthy food and not in huge quantities: chicken, steak, salads, chips (we ain’t saints), veggies, fish, fruit, lobster poutine (we visited the east coast and did I mention we ain’t saints…OMG…worth every single calorie and dare I say possibly better than…chips 🙂 what did you think I was referring to?!).

As for the ‘exercise’ it was all in the form of fun stuff: hiking together, swimming together, cycling together.  The part that made it fun and not seem the least bit like the dreaded ‘exercise’ is that #1: it’s stuff we like to do and #2: we were doing it together.  It’s amazing how much more enjoyable and how much less a chore exercise is when you are doing something you like to do and doing it with someone you like to be with.

Many of my patients will express fear when they talk about going on holiday. Some will even ask for (and be denied!) a fill prior to going away so they ‘don’t eat too much’ (subject for another blog because as we ALL know a fill won’t stop oneself from over eating). So often “vacation” spells ‘over-eating and over-relaxing’ but it doesn’t have to.

For as many patients who express fear at the thought of potential vacation weight gain, I would say at least twice as many are thrilled to realize it just doesn’t happen.  They find that they maintain, and quite often even lose a pound or two while away.  The patients who experience this are the ones who are using their bands as the tools they are meant to be, and have made the necessary lifestyle changes that go with health and weight loss.  That is to say, they are (whether consciously or unconsciously) following Dr. O’Briens 8 word mantra of  “Eat a Small Amount of Good Food Slowly”, and they are looking at activity not as ‘exercise’ and a chore but as doing something enjoyable and pleasurable to do.

As we always say, the band doesn’t give you a day off. Life with the band means small portions of healthy solid food that are chewed well and eaten slowly.  Health and weight loss means choosing the right foods most of the time (none of us are perfect, a bit more poutine please…) in the right amounts, listening to your body and living as active a lifestyle as possible.  Yes it can mean sacrifice as in limiting the extra calories, saying ‘no thanks’ (when what you really want to say is ‘bring it on’) and perhaps taking the dog for that walk rather than coercing the kids to do it…but the pay off is HUGE as any person who is successful at weight loss will tell you.  If you are finding that the activity part of living a healthy lifestyle is difficult perhaps consider changing up your routine, finding something you really enjoy, and/or finding a buddy to workout with…it can make all the difference in the world.

Now as I was writing all of this I had to laugh. I had been keeping a travel journal to chronicle our happy family adventure.  One morning as I went to write about the previous days’ activities I discovered that my dear sweet darling daughter Maggie had taken it upon herself to steal my journal and make her own touching addition. Let me share:

“Every morning we are woken promptly at 5:30 (she is such a liar!!  I never got the brats up before 7) by a shrill ‘YOU DON’T WANT TO WASTE THE DAY!’ (Ok I have been known to say that…) as she rips us from our cozy slumbers and shoves our boots on our feet thus beginning our daily morning march”.

Ahhh the memories :):)

Yours in Health and Happiness,


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The ‘Little Things’

imagesV5AL3ASJToday was  the day for my monthly visit (whoa! that’s sounds like a preamble to icky grade 5 health class…) to our downtown clinic. The night before my ‘Downtown Day’ I have to rifle through my closet to find  something from this decade that is suitable to wear in an office environment.  Not only that but I force my poor feet into heels and pray I can make it through the day without tripping.  Last month as luck would have it the strap on my shoe broke while I was getting off the subway and I had to stuff my size 8’s into a co-workers size 6’s for the remainder of the day.  Never before have I appreciated so much that my regular work day attire consists of scrubs and Crocs!

Today, as on many days, I was struck by how truly lovely Canadians are and it reminded me of how fortunate I am that I can call myself ‘Canadian’!

 It’s the little things:  as I was getting on to the crowded subway the young man inside quickly hopped out so that I wouldn’t have to squeeze past him (if he had offered me his seat and called me ‘dear’  however I would have decked  him).  When I went to Starbucks for my morning jolt of happiness the barista (such a fancy title!) called me by my first name not just once but TWICE and  wished me a good day…  It’s the little things.  There is a Tim Hortons close to our ‘not downtown’ clinic which I go to every day that I work and I am always amazed by how polite all the patrons are.  Everyone holds the door for one another, people smile and FREQUENTLY patrons wish each other a good day.  Again…all little things but they make my day.

Today I saw a patient who is fairly new to her Lap-band journey.  She was banded in February 2015 with her initial weight being 260 lbs.  She has been coming in regularly and I would say has been having a fairly standard journey thus far.  Today she weighed in at 248 lbs and had her fourth small adjustment as she feels she is ‘almost there’.  She hasn’t really lost that much in the past few months, however this isn’t phasing her…she has done her homework and knows it is coming.  Not only that but she is recognizing (and loving) the difference this weight loss has made in her life thus far.  Today she showed me how her pants were sagging in the butt and how her rings are spinning around on her fingers and she was beaming ear to ear.  She said to me ‘Sue it’s the little things that are making me the happiest’. 

From my 9 years of working with banded patients, something that is overwhelmingly apparent is that it is the little changes that occur in a person’s life as a result of weight loss that have the greatest impact and seem to impart the most amount of happiness and satisfaction.  

One of my co-workers often tells the story of a phone call she received from a patient who was inside a fitting room and crying because she fit into a ‘normal size’ pair of jeans and she wanted to share her joy.  I remember a patient commenting to me that he was at a BBQ the weekend before and realized he was sitting with his legs crossed for the first time in 30 years.  My sister when she flew home from overseas and didn’t have to ask the skinny flight attendant for a seat belt extender.

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If You Can’t Do it for The Rest of Your Life…

027So around 2-3 months ago I had a little meltdown in the kitchen when I opened the cupboard door and it fell off…again.  We have more wood putty holding our kitchen together than we have wood.  So this combined with my hissy fit prompted a much needed kitchen reno.  Now his last name is not the only thing Scottish about my husband.  He is notoriously, how do I put it delicately as there is a slim chance he may read this…fruuuuugal (I’m saying that with the Scottish brogue :)).  Henceforth we are in the midst of a DIY kitchen reno and I am trying my very very best to see past the clutter, the dirt, and the chaos to appreciate what the end result will be (‘patient’ ‘talented’ meticulous’ are all words I would use to describe Rob…’speedy’, not so much).

So what does this have to do with Lap-bands?? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING I JUST NEEDED TO VENT!!!  Naw I’m kidding (sorta).  Its a bit of a preamble to how this blog started.  This morning I was standing in the disaster zone trying to figure out what masterpiece to create  for dinner (i.e. thaw and nuke) when my youngest son started asking me about all the various diets out there.  Cal is not quite 16 years old 6’4″, eats like a horse and complains daily because he can’t gain weight…how much do you think his sister hates him?  We started trying to list the diets we’ve heard of and came up with Jenny Craig, Herbal Magic, Raw, Wheat Belly, and of course the crème de la crème Dr. B.  Cal wanted to know if these diets ‘worked’.  Well the answer is a resounding ‘yes they do’!!  They work beautifully, especially Dr. B.


FACT: You will definitely lose weight on all those diets if followed correctly, and probably a lot more quickly than you will with the band.


A couple of small hitches though.  With Jenny Craig be prepared to pay for the cost of your program and for the cost of the food FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.  Herbal Magic is fantastic…you can join now for just 12 weeks and lose up to 25 lbs!  (Hopefully you have a spare $250/month weighing down your wallet as that is what the supplements will cost).  Raw diet is awesome if you enjoy, well, raw food (your food must be uncooked, unprocessed, mostly organic and raw…warmish is apparently ok, but have a thermometer ready because you’re kicked out of the commune if the temperature of your food goes above 118 degrees aaaand you have to wear socks with your Birkenstocks at all times).  Wheat Belly!  My hubby did that for about two weeks.  After that it became a bit annoying trying to find grass-produced meats for him and he really started to miss his bagel and peanut butter (no cereal grains or legumes allowed!).  And of course my personal favorite Dr. B.  Perfect for the masochist who enjoys being emotionally abused and a weekly needle in the arse (please note: “the opinions expressed in this blog represent my personal opinions only and in no way are representative of the employers for whom I work”…just making sure I kick any potential defamation lawsuits to the curb ;)).

I’m not professing to know a whole lot about any of those diets and I know I am being a bit flippant.  But a piece of ‘dieting’ advice I once heard that stuck with me was this:  IF YOU CAN’T DO IT FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE DON’T EVEN DO IT FOR ONE DAY.

I think that this is one of the primary reasons that ‘dieting’ doesn’t work. The problem with going on a ‘diet’ is that for most people the changes that need to be made to ones lifestyle are tolerable for short periods of time, but long-term they are just plain unrealistic, not to mention often unhealthy.  Sometimes when I discuss with a frustrated patient changes that they may need to make in order to live successfully with a Lap-band they will throw at me “that’s the same as a being on a diet!!”

The thing with the band is it is not about ‘dieting’, it is about healthy living.

The key actions that a banded individual should incorporate into their lifestyle to live successfully with their band, be healthy and lose weight are:

  • choose a variety of healthy solid foods
  • eat smaller portions
  • take small bites
  • chew well
  • eat mindfully
  • stop before you feel full
  • incorporate physical activity into your daily routine

Now this varies dramatically from what a NON-BANDED individual needs to do to live a healthy lifestyle and lose weight. A NON-BANDED individual should:

  • choose a variety of healthy solid foods
  • eat smaller portions
  • take small bites
  • chew well
  • eat mindfully
  • stop before you feel full
  • incorporate physical activity into your daily routine


HOLD THE PHONES!!!  Is it just me or did that sound repetitive??  (My daughter has recently started referring to me as Alice from the book/movie ‘Still Alice’ whenever I repeat myself, which is apparently often…should never have stopped taking those little pills 21 years ago…). These are healthy living principles that EVERYONE should embrace as a part of their lifestyle not just banded individuals!  This isn’t a diet!! Nowhere do I see listed above ‘take a whack of expensive supplements daily’, ‘eat only food that is cooked below 118 degrees and/or still moving’, ‘warning:  if your urine tests negative for ketones you will be publicly humiliated’.

What I’m getting at is, having a band is NOT about dieting.  It is about eating small amounts of good food slowly (Dr. O’Brien’s 8 word mantra and another blog), moving daily, and perhaps embracing rather than resisting change.

Bottom Line:  Diets Don’t Work but the Lap-band Does.  Sometimes living successfully with the band requires a minor change in lifestyle, sometimes it requires a major overhaul.  Sometimes it takes just a shift in attitude to see what changes need to be made to see success.

Yours in Health, Happiness and to getting my sink back,


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Fear of a Defill!! (and other silly phobias)

Yellow DuckOk so here’s a good one.  Anyone know what ‘omphalophobia‘ is?  Fear of belly buttons :).  How about ‘alliumphobia‘?  (hint: vampires have it).  Yup fear of garlic.  What about ‘hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliphobia‘??  Ok so this is just not funny but it’s the fear of long words (someone out there besides myself has a warped sense of humour).

True confession, I am afraid of spiders.  That would probably (most definitely) be putting it mildly.  I have an irrational, ridiculous fear/fascination with the horrible beasts, and anyone who is around me when I come within 5 feet of one is soon aware of this.  Years ago I even went to a spider phobia clinic where I was ‘desensitized’ to the disgusting creatures by gradually being exposed to larger and larger specimens (without stomping the revolting critters with my shoe).  And believe it or not it worked!  After a mere 8 hours I had spiders crawling on my arms and legs and I WAS OK!!! 

After proudly graduating with honours from my arachnophobia-desensitization-course I was told that to maintain my healthy, positive relationship with the ugly blights on the planet I was to ‘play’ with them regularly.  Of course that didn’t happen which is why around two years ago I didn’t hesitate to summon my elderly mother up to my room to balance precariously on my bed, risking a fall and a broken hip and goodness knows what else to kill a spider on my ceiling…I’m still a little ashamed about that one although I did hand her the broom.

The fact is we all have healthy ‘normal’ fears (fire, exposed electrical wires, being caught in white pants after Labour Day) and most of us have the odd irrational phobia.  I however have discovered and named a new Lap-band specific fear and I am calling it ‘the-world-is-going-to-come-to-an-end-if-I-get-a-defill-phobia‘.  Can anyone reading this blog figure out what that is??  Does anyone perhaps…have it?  Just as half of all women have a fear of spiders (I’m not so weird after all, at least not in that sense), I am predicting that around half of all banded individuals may have this phobia.

I just received an email yesterday from a patient.  She is not unique (well she is in fact…we all are unique and she is a super kind, intelligent woman) in her suffering and her fear.  With her permission I copied below a part of her email:

“Sweet relief!! I didn’t think I could possibly get instant relief, but I did.  The acid discomfort was intense and was immediately relieved before I left your office and IT HAS NOT RETURNED SINCE, not once, not even slightly.  I cannot believe that I lived with the pain for soooooo long and the solution was soooooo simple.  What was I thinking?!”

I know what she was thinking, we all know what she was thinking:  ‘If I get a defill I will gain weight’ (also known as the-world-is-going-to-come-to-an-end-if-I-get-a-defill-phobia).  This is not a weird, uncommon phobia, say like genuphobia **.  It is however one that needs to be exposed for the unnecessary fear that it is and more importantly for the harm it causes.

Being too tight makes you miserable.  You can’t tolerate healthy solid foods.  You get awful acid reflux/heartburn.  You may get fluid and/or acid regurgitation at night.  You end up eating crap because that’s all that goes down without pain.  You often get pouch dilatation.  And you usually gain weight.  A total lose-lose situation with a very easy remedy: a simple, and usually small, defill.  SOOOO MUCH EASIER THAN HAVING SPIDERS CRAWL ON YOU!!!

So I want a promise right now from anyone reading this who suspects they are too tight: promise me  you will contact your clinic to discuss your symptoms and follow their direction even if it is a defill.  PROMISE ME.  I go to a lot of effort writing these blogs so its the least you can do right?!! (How’s that for some Presbyterian guilt ;)).  I guarantee you will find that, just like my patient above found out, it is a simple solution with immediate positive effects that will result in your having a much healthier relationship with your band.

And to finish things off here we all need to remember to count our blessings, so with that in mind be happy you don’t suffer from anatidaephobia especially with the wet weather upon us…you’ll never guess this one: fear of a duck watching you :):).

Yours in health and happiness quack quack,


(** fear of knees!)

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