Heavyweight Yoga – A Really Enjoyable Experience

AbbyLentz_YogaPose_300dpiAbby Lentz is a powerhouse. She’s 70 and a true pioneer. She got into yoga before it was fashionable and has seen it transform. She has helped transform the concept of yoga herself. She’s made it more accessible to people of size, which I will always be.

What is Heavyweight Yoga?

Her program, Heavyweight Yoga, takes basic hatha yoga poses and modifies them for the plus-sized person. It makes it easier for us to do yoga. Yoga is fantastic. It has so many health benefits. It’s like a meditation in action. I didn’t think I’d like it as much as I did.

But I did.

Abby Lentz

I met Abby for coffee on Thursday, June 28th. She was fun, funny and very sweet. She honestly shared her vision for Heavyweight Yoga. She has YouTube videos and DVDs on her website so those of you who don’t live in Austin like I do can benefit from her wisdom.

Her lust for life makes her seem so much younger than her 70 years and I bet that teaching yoga is part of that for her. She came to yoga at a time of transformation in her life and rebuilt herself and her career. She’s just an amazing woman.

Heartfelt Yoga Studio

When I went to her house, yes her studio is in her home, I was blown away by how cozy everything was. The first lesson is free, which is amazing. I can’t believe I went so quickly, but I just felt I had to do it. I wanted to come and see what it was about so I braved rush-hour traffic in Austin, which is considerable, to get to her studio by 5:45 pm for her Thursday class.

I was greeted like an old friend and brought into her studio. It was lit up with the late afternoon sunshine and white curtains that brought the room to life. I notice cute little tchotchkes throughout the session. My classmates were wonderful and welcoming. I was nervous. I had only taken aqua yoga before and afraid I couldn’t keep up. Everyone reassured me that it would be fine, no one more so than Abby herself.

The Class Itself

When class began, I was drawn in immediately. I could do this. I actually did better than I thought I would. Abby complimented me after class as we met in her kitchen to drink tea and have snacks. Everything about the class was just warm and welcoming. I felt so good afterwards that I signed up for four more classes. It was relaxing, fun and challenging at the same time. Amazing!

Food Funerals – Should You Have Them or Not?

Food Funerals – I love this topic. My bariatric surgeon’s nutritionist hates it, but I’m not a big fan of him. He loves Quinoa and Kale and has never had a weight problem in his life. Basically, food funerals were my way to say good-bye to foods that I wouldn’t really need in my new bariatric life. They were sort of my ‘last meals’. I prepped for a while before my surgery. I worked with my own nutritional counselor, therapist, psychiatrist and life coach.

I knew what was going to happen post-surgery in part because I had the lap band before. Certain foods were just not going to work in the bariatric lifestyle. I decided to bid farewell to things like pizza and lasagna and tres leches cake. You can decide which foods you need to say good-bye to. I made it into a mini-ceremony.

I found them very effective. They gave me closure on the fact that I couldn’t or wouldn’t eat those foods again. I know that why the bariatric surgeon’s nutritionist didn’t like them. I get it. However, I was emotionally attached to food. This was my way of de-taching emotionally from it. I will tell you the truth – I have had pizza and lasagna since surgery. I just eat gluten-free pizza and lasagna is more of a noodleless kind. I still get the flavor, but it’s not entirely the same.

Frankly, a food funeral is a good way to prepare yourself for life after surgery. It will help you be less emotional about food. Food is fuel. We need to stop having a relationship with it and learn how to live with it as part of our lives, but not the most important part of our lives. By saying farewell to it and sending it off on its way, I made my peace with food and prepared myself for life post-surgery.

I think it has helped me be more successful as a result. Should you have food funerals? That’s up to you. I can’t make that decision for you nor would I. If you think it makes sense, do it. If you don’t, no one will fault you for it.

What is fat mind? Why you need to be aware of it?

Fat mind is something all bariatric patients need to be aware of. It’s basically thinking like a fat person. Your former self had a certain mindset when it came to food. That mindset may not be the best mindset to help you succeed as a WLS patient. You may want to eat things that are not healthy for you. You may want to eat at times you are not hungry. You may want to eat more than your body can comfortably hold.

Fat mind is a way of thinking and being that keeps you stuck in the old you and the old habits. It’s difficult to counterract it, but not impossible. The first thing to do is to be aware that those thoughts are there. You can overcome them. It’s difficult, but it can be done.

Awareness is turning your attention to something. In order to be aware of fat mind, you need to understand when you’re starting to think that way. It could be when you see a trigger food like candy or a cookie. Maybe those items don’t need to be in your home anymore. It’s not going to harm your family to eat those items away from you. You can and should make your home a safe and healthy environment for you. You’ve got to take care of yourself and knowing what you can and cannot tolerate is important.

Some people can have the items around them and it doesn’t bother them. That’s fine for them. You are the only you in the world. Get to know yourself post-surgery. You will find that you are a bit different than you were pre-surgery. It’s okay. Don’t be alarmed. Weight loss surgery is life-changing. You will find out that things shift. Attitudes shift. Needs shift. It’s alright.

Relax and let it happen. Watch it unfold and you will see that your life is going to get so much better. As for fat mind, the only way to beat it is to recognize it. You need to know when it rears its ugly head so you can say no to it. You are stronger than fat mind. I guarantee you that you are.

 

What a support group is and isn’t?

Last night, I had a difficult experience. I went to a so-called support group. The vibe was very negative. There was a ‘presentation’ in a classroom. It felt like a lecture hall more than a support group. The moderators and leader were very rude and all-knowing. When a poor woman mentioned she was having cake cravings, they jumped down her throat.

This made me realize what I don’t want in a support group.

  • Judgement
  • Food policing
  • Negativity
  • Presentations without sharing

We also didn’t get a chance to introduce ourselves. Sure, we wore name tags, but the room was so big I really didn’t ‘see’ people’s names.

Here’s what I think a suppoort group should be. It should be light-hearted and discussion forward. People should be encouraged to share their journeys. You can have an ‘expert’ in the room, but that ‘expert’ should listen more than they speak. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason.

People in the support group should have time to introduce themselves and build camraderie. People should be allowed to talk about the problems and pitfalls they find themselves in and get supportive, kind answers from the group. No one should be shamed or made to feel bad. That should be a ground rule and one that the group agrees on.

A support group is not a dictatorship. It is richer for having people’s experiences shared. It is helpful to hear from members at different levels of the bariatric journey or whatever journey they’re on. I want to bring people together, not tear them apart.

I want to build people up and give them the tools they need to succeed. Maybe someone could have told this woman that it’s okay to crave foods. You can choose to give in to the craving or not. It’s up to you. Yes, there may be consequences (i.e., dumping) to the action, but those are consequences you should understand and be aware of. They’re not meant to scare of hinder you.

You have to live your life as a bariatric patient and sometimes that life includes cake. I wish I had said something in the support group to help that woman, but I felt like it would’ve fallen on deaf ears. This morning, I’m still thinking about her and hope she is okay.

I also hope that she has enough self-respect not to go back to that so-called ‘support group.’ For more information on my support group offerings, please visit my Facebook page.

I am offering an online group and one in Austin at Genuine Joe’s Coffee shop. They are six weeks in duration and I ask you to commit to all six weeks. It’s not that much time and I do believe you will get something out of it. I will also ask you for your feedback and participation. I want it to be your support group, not mine. I’m just there to facilitate.

I hope you sign up and I hope to see you either online or at Genuine Joe’s in August. If these work out, I will be offering them more often. I wish you love, light and support today on your journey, wherever you are. If you want cake, eat some, but enjoy the hell out of it. Make it worth your while.

What kinds of professionals are available to me?

As a bariatric patient, you may already be sick of the doctor and nutritionist visits. I’m not going to tell you that I like them at all. However, I know I need to see my professionals to be successful as a WLS patient. In many cases, bariatric patients are left too much to their own devices and don’t make the necessary behavioral changes needed to remain successful, long-term. Did you know that you can still gain back the weight even though you’ve had a large portion of your stomach removed?

Many of us do. It’s far too common. That’s why I am going to strongly suggest that you get professional help during this process. You need to get your mind in gear as well as your body or you won’t succeed long-term.

There are different professionals I work with and I suggest you consider working with at least one of them yourself. They are:

  • psychiatrist
  • therapist
  • nutitional counselor
  • and life coach.

Psychiatrist 

My psychiatrist is a great man. He’s gentle, kind and compassionate. He’s one of a kind. I searched years for him and hope he doesn’t retire anytime soon. I’ve made him promise. His name is J. Bernard Cordoba, MD. He’s in the Austin, TX area and is well worth the money. He does not take health insurance, but he provides me with support and structure. I am not only a bariatric patient, but I am bipolar. In the year since I’ve had my surgery, I have had a deep depression and some manic episodes as well as a period of rapid cycling we both didn’t understand. We’ve adjusted medications – I’ve come down a bit on my antidepressant and slightly increased my mood stabilizer. Dr. Cordoba has saved my life and my marriage as a result.

Therapist

Because I am bipolar, I have been working with a therapist for years. Laura McDowell-Salcedo is my therapist. She has been for over seven years and she will be for as long as she remains in practice. We’ve been through a lot together. She has helped me realize that I did need the gastric sleeve and was there for me during the depression and manic episodes. She would open up her schedule to let me come twice a week when I needed it. I’m sorry to say that I did need it sometimes. She has taught me to stop with the negative talk. I feel much better as a person since I’ve lost weight although I need to come to terms with the new body. That’s next up on our list. Success.

Nutritional Counselor

Alexa Sparkman is a registered dietician, but she’s not a food pyramid robot. She thinks of food differently and has taught me to as well. She runs support groups called “Overcoming Mind Hunger.” I plan to offer support groups for my clients as well. They will deal specifically with emotional eating, a problem I feel plagues many bariatric patients. Truthfully, Alexa has helped me navigate my new eating plan. My body is very sensitive to foods. I am currently a gluten-free vegan. She helps me get as much nutrition as I can with my limitations. I did not expect to never be able to eat animal protein or drink milk again, but that happened as a result of the surgery. If I did not have a professional like Alexa in my corner, I could have become severely malnourished.

Life Coach

I hold a special place in my heat for life coaches because I am one. I can work with emotional overeaters, bariatric patients and their loved ones to help support them through the process. It is a process. You don’t just have the surgery and it’s all over. I also have a life coach who helped me decide to have the surgery. I year and a half ago, I was dead set against it. I still have moments where I wish I could undo it. Clay Blacker keeps me grounded. He keeps me in the moment and reminds me of my successes, not just my weight loss.

I am a different person today because I got professional help. Food is not my problem anymore. I don’t think of it as my friend or cohort. I don’t really think about it. I just eat it when I’m hungry. I’d love to see you have a non-relationship with food. The mind can overcome so much. Let me help you do it because they helped me. Call me today at 512-484-7634. I’m here for you.

What are the effects of extreme weight loss on the body?

Many bariatric patients lose weight rapidly, especially during the post-operative progression diet. The truth is that the body is not meant to lose weight so rapidly. It can cause some serious side effects. We will look at some of those side effects and how you can work to derail them in your own weight loss efforts.

Personally, I’ve had to deal with some of the negative, as well as the positive, effects of extreme weight loss. The positive include the fact that I don’t need knee surgery. My pain levels are lower because I’m not so obese. I’ve been able to reduce my thyroid medication because my TSH is now within normal range. I also got rid of blood pressure meds. I was borderline hypertensive before the surgery and I am now in the normal range all the time.

I did not lose hair as a result of my extreme weight loss. Some people report that problem and I will go into it in more detail in another post. However, I have noticed some issues that I’d like to address:

  • loose skin,
  • muscle loss,
  • fatigue,
  • vitamin deficiencies,
  • and gall stones.

Loose Skin

I’ve lost over 130 lbs in about a year. I have tons of loose skin. It’s a bit uncomfortable and causes issues. I feel unattractive and am more uncomfortable in a swimsuit this year than I was last year. I have bat wings, loose skin on my hips and thighs and a bit of a skin shelf hanging over where my stomach used to be. I feel if I lost weight slower, I could’ve reduced some of this problem. I will need skin surgery when all is said and done. I’m not sure insurance will cover it.

Muscle loss

I go to a nutritional counselor every couple of months. She does body monitoring which tells me what my BMI is and my lean muscle mass is for example. My BMI has gone down, but so too has my lean muscle mass. I’ve lost muscle as well as fat. This is not the ideal situation. I’m trying to rectify it by working out more, but I don’t know how successful I will be.

Fatigue

The body goes through some stress when you lose weight quickly. I have struggled with the feeling of being tired all the time. I also have Fibromyalgia so I can’t blame it all on the extreme weight loss. I do notice it’s worse since I had the surgery. Some days I feel like I could sleep the whole day away. I just don’t give into it.

Vitamin Deficiencies

I get my blood drawn every three months. I will move to every six months after my next surgeon appointment, which is coming up next week. During that time, I have seen my numbers drop significantly. I am now deficieint in Vitamin D, which is very common for women. I take a D3 supplement suggested by my surgeon’s office. I do this every day along with the other vitamins and supplements I have to take as a result of the surgery.  I have friends who have had near-life-threatening symptoms from lack of Thiamine (B1) and other vitamin problems. Take your vitamins and supplements. Please. You need them.

Gall Stones

This one is relatively new and I may need gall bladder surgery as a result. Extreme weight loss can cause gall stones. It did for me. My gall bladder was fine a year ago. Some surgeons remove the gall bladder as a matter of course when they do the sleeve or bypass since it’s so common. Kinda scary. I know the gall bladder surgery is not a big deal and will give me loads of relief, but I’m sort of annoyed that I need more surgery because of weight loss surgery.

So, there you have it – some of the effects of extreme weight loss on the body. I hope your body handles the extreme weight loss of bariatric surgery better than mine has. I’ve been working with my nutritionist to eat more and lose less quickly. I am fine taking my time getting to goal. At some point, I think you should slow it down too, but that’s up to you.

 

 

 

 

Keep CALM with the CALM Plan

calm

The CALM plan is something I learned during the course of my support group workings with Alexa Sparkman. Alexa is a nutrtitionist in the Austin, TX area. She has a wonderful program called “Overcoming Mind Hunger.” You can visit her website at http://www.sparkmannutrition.com if you are interested in learning more about it.

In her support groups, which I have taken multiple times, Alexa talks about the CALM plan for handling cravings.  There are four steps or actions to take with the CALM Plan. They are:

  • Connect to consciousness – This is where your previous training comes in. Connecting to consciousness means that you are present in your mind and you know what’s going on. You are aware that you are having a craving.
  • Alleviate anxiety – As an aware individual, you understand that you are having some difficulty overcoming this craving. You are able to regulate your emotional mind and get back into a calmer place. You can do this. You can overcome your craving.
  • Logical liabilities. These are the lies you tell yourself to make it okay to emotionally overeat. For example, “I had a rough day, so I deserve that ice cream sundae.” As you go through the process, you will figure out what your logical liabilities are. Access them and let them have free reign. Tell them you know what they’re trying to do and they will go away.
  • Mobilize and move on. Your craving, by this time, has probably passed. You can now go back to your life, craving free. Cravings don’t last and we don’t have to give into them just because we have them. You have a choice.

The important thing for you to remember is that the CALM plan takes time to work. It is not a tool you can put in your toolbox overnight. Like anything worth having, it requires skill and practice. I cannow use the CALM plan when I have a craving. I know it will pass, usually in less than 5 minutes. I used to be scared of cravings. I am not anymore.

You can use the CALM plan. It will work. I promise. I will be offering my own support groups. They are six weeks long and free to the public. They begin the first full week in August (we skip Labor Day week) and then finish up around the 15th. I will have more information here and at my Facebook site.

I hope I can provide help for people the same way Alexa did for me. Good luck and keep ‘CALM.’

 

Hunger and Hormones

hungerHunger is something we feel when we need to eat. When you emotionally overeat, you may be ‘hungry’ before your body is physically ready to be. You can increase your hunger hormones by overuse. In this article, we’ll talk a little bit about hunger and hormones so you can learn a bit about the science behind hunger and hopefully, how to make it work for you.

What is hunger?

Hunger, for our purpose of definition, is a physical sensation in the stomach. It is our body’s way of saying that we need to eat in order to stay alive. Hunger is a primal human need and one we should not ignore.

What hormones drive hunger?

There are two hormones that drive hunger in the human body, they are leptin and ghrelin. Leptin, for its part, is a hormone, that is made by the fat cells. It is supposed to decrease your appetite. Ghrelin is a hormone that increases appetite. It also plays a significant role in the body’s weight.

What’s weird is that leptin, the appetite suppressant hormone, is more prevalent in a body that is heavier. It’s just that obese people tend to ignore the signals that leptin brings. That’s where emotional hunger and emotional eating (overeating) come into play.

Can hunger be psychological?

Absolutely. People can get hungry for reasons that are not physical. Many overeaters are emotional overeaters. Cues other than physical hunger pains and pangs can lead them to eat. Have you ever eaten because you were bored, sad, mad or glad? Then, you’ve engaged in emotional eating.

Want to know more about ghrelin?

Ghrelin, which increases your appetite, is released primarily in the stomach. It’s a thought signal that tells your brain you are hungry. You would expect it to increase if someone is undereating and decrease if a person is overeating. When children do those things, ghrelin seems to work this way. However, something seems to change as we grow up. We seem to control ghrelin more than it controls us.

Some German researchers have discovered that ghrelin levels play a role in determining how quickly hunger comes back after we eat. Normally, the levels skyrocket before you eat. They then go down for about three hours after so you shouldn’t be physically hungry for at least three hours after eating.

What do we know about leptin?

Leptin, however, seems to be the bigger player in the body’s quest for energy balance. This is the appetite suppressor. Some researchers think that leptin may regulate ghrelin. Leptin tells the body it has enough fat to survive. The more fat you have, the more leptin is in your blood. However, the amount of sleep you get and the time you last ate can have a significant effect on leptin. Studies have shown that rats can develop an insensitivity to leptin. It seems that this may be transferred to humans and is why obese people can ‘ignore’ leptin’s cues.

What happens to hunger hormones after sleeve surgery?

Well, it seems that ghrelin is reduced after sleeve surgery. Because it’s produced in the stomach and about 70% of the stomach goes away with this surgery, there is less ghrelin being produced. This may explain why people who have the sleeve surgery report less hunger. Sleeve patients also report feeling more satiety between meals.

So, do you now understand hunger and hormones better? If not, there are lots of articles on the internet that can help. Remember, I am not a medical doctor or a nutritionist. I am a life coach specializing in emotional overeating and bariatric surgery. This is for informational purposes only.

 

Is keto right for me?

ketosteakSo many bariatric patients are asking if the keto diet is the proper diet for them. Note that I am not a nutritionist or a doctor. I am not an expert. For me, the keto diet does not work. I honestly feel that it’s a fad and, as bariatric patients, we should concentrate on eating the healthiest, best food possible since we’re so limited. Having said that, there are many good things about keto that you can apply to a bariatric life. If you want to do keto, I’m not here to judge or stop you. I want you to educate yourself further and be informed. I would also suggest that you don’t follow the normal keto diet, but one that has been adapted specifically for bariatric patients.

So, what is a keto diet? 

A keto, or ketogenic diet, is basically a low-carb, moderate protein and high fat diet that is supposed to put your body into ketosis.

What is ketosis? 

Ketosis occurs when you’re body is using fat as energy (ketones) and not carbs. Your liver will create ketones instead. Acetoacetate is the most common ketone. It’s created from the breakdown of fatty acids. Acetoacetate is then broken down into BHB or Acetone. The Acetone can account for the bad breath and smelly waste during your beginning phase of the keto diet.

 What can you eat on a keto diet? 

You are encouraged to eat low-carb foods like:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Greens like kale, arugula, swiss chard, etc.
  • and Broccoli.

You can also eat high-fat foods like:

  • Avocado
  • Sour  Cream
  • Olive Oil,
  • and  Marrow.

What about water?

You should drink plenty of water (between 40 – 68 oz a day at least) especially when you are in the early stages of ketosis. Alcohol and soda, including diet, is not encouraged, which should be fine for most bariatric patients. We’re not supposed to have carbonation. It can stretch the stomach. Some coffees and teas are okay, but sweeteners are not.

Now, bariatric keto plans are even more restrictive. You generally have to limit your calories to around 1,000 per day. You should get your 60 – 75g of protein and avoid really high-fat foods so you don’t dump. If you do decide to follow the keto plan, please get some assistance from a bariatric keto professional or support group.

Don’t attempt to go it alone.

 

 

 

 

My Life-Long Stuggle with Obesity, Part 2

oneyearanniversary.JPGWhere did we leave off? Oh yes, I was in despair and just dxed bipolar. At this point, I went into an outpatient program at Shoal Creek Mental Hospital in Austin. It was run by Penny Kruger. She’s a DBT master. DBT stands for Dialectical Behavior Therapy. It helps you control your impulses and be more mindful. DBT literally saved my life. I began working with her after the program was finished. I went to support groups for years.

I also found a good therapist, Laura McDowell, who I see to this day. My psychiatrist, J. Bernard Cordoba is there to help me as well. Alexa Sparkman, who runs support groups for Overcoming Mind Hunger, is a nutritional counselor who taught me how to actually learn what hunger and satiety were. As a bulimic, I never felt full. I needed and still need these professionals to help me navigate my life.

I got help. I finally gave up trying to do it on my own. I lost some weight, but not a lot. I had a lap band done in 2010. It was not a success. I mean I lost weight. I was about 400 lbs before surgery. My highest weight ever was 444. Yes, I had trouble typing that. It’s unacceptable to me. I am disgusted by it, but I own it.

The first time I walked into Alexa’s support group, I could only eat pudding and soft foods. If I tried anything more ‘intense’, I would get stuck and have to go back to the surgeon to un-fill my band. Three years of that and I had had enough. The new surgeon decided he wanted me to have the duodenal switch. One side effect was uncontrollable diarrhea. Thanks, but no thanks. I fired the doctor and left bariatric surgery behind.

Or so I thought.

I tried over the next few years to lose weight on my own. I went gluten free, cutting out most carbs. I had a little success, but regained almost all the weight I had lost from the band. I felt like a real loser. I was down, but not out. Then, I busted my meniscus. This was on December 13, 2016. All I did was step down on it.

The weight I was carrying on my legs had finally harmed them. I was a little surprised that it took that long. The orthopedist would not help me. He said I was too fat. I hired a new orthopedist who said she wanted to help me but could not do surgery until I got down to a 40 BMI. I mad an appointment with a surgeon and began the process to have the sleeve.

My sleeve operation was on 6/6/17. I like to think of it as my re-birth-day. I don’t look at food the same way. I don’t eat food the same way. I have lost over 130 lbs. I am not morbidly obese anymore. I am just obese and heading towards overweight. I can shop in department stores.

I can fit in restaurant booths, bathroom stalls, plane seats and more. I go to concerts. I climbed Mt. Bonell, the tallest point in Austin. I don’t need knee surgery anymore. No, I don’t. I’ve taken enough stress off my joint to manage the pain with shots.

My orthopedist was proud, but I was prouder. I knew how hard I worked to get there.

I am proud of my accomplishments, but I know I am not done. The sleeve is a tool that helped me get my life back. Things aren’t perfect. I may need my gall bladder out. I may have a GI disease which caused a lot of my problems with the lap band and makes eating certain foods an impossibility right now.

I don’t care what challenges life throws at me, anymore. I have honestly overcome so much in my life. This is nothing. I love my new life and I am grateful to the professionals and friends I have rooting me on.

If you doubt doing this surgery, that’s understandable. If you can find another way, do it. I encourage you no matter what. Weight loss is not easy. Please don’t go on a diet. Change your life. You have to want it and you have to be willing to change, but it’s so worth it. I can help you. I can support you. I have been you. I hope you know that now because of my story.

Now, I get to write the next chapters and they will be happier than the last ones. I know this to be true.

Missed part one? Read it now.