It was that time of year again where I am lucky enough to spend a few days with a few other lapbanders, gastric bypassers, and non-WLS individuals that share the same focus and intentions. This will be the fourth year that we have all met, and was started back when Allergan owned and manufactured the band. At one time, there were several makers of the band out there, but Realize and Allergan were the two biggest. A lot of lapband patients didnt know there was a choice or a difference in the manufacturing and size of the bands and ports. I didn't. I was just lucky enough to get the Allergan 10cc band. The Realize band no longer exists.
SO, Allergan decided to bring some of us together that had social media pertaining to weight loss surgery. There is Alex...who owns and operates what is now bariatricpal.com. It used to be lapbandtalk.com, and that is where many of us 7-8 years ago would find ourselves...immersed in the success and horror stories.
There is Yvonne. She is a gastric bypasser for over a decade now and has the Bariatric Girl website and facebook page and does a lot of work with the Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America, getting grants for those who need surgery but can't afford it.
There is Joe. He does not have any surgery, but is the head honcho of the Obesity Action Coalition and spends his days fighting for those battling Obesity. He is not pro-band or pro-sleeve..he is just pro-choice when it comes to ways to lose weight and spends a lot of his time on Capital Hill.
Then there is of course me and Karin. There is Banded Wendy (youtube), Sandy, Bo, and Karin Gillan joined us. She is the author of the book "Life after Lapband". She is a bandster currently 10 years out.
These days we are all pulled together by Apollo. The new owner of the band. We get to meet with their CEO, their marketing department, and their entire time.
This year was different from years past because instead of us spending all our time trying to educate THEM on what life is like with the band, they shared information with US to help make us better advocates.
One of the most informative presenters was a Nurse Practitioner from Detroit named Rachel. She has specialized in WLS for over 8 years. If every clinic had a Rachel, we as patients would be better equipped to handle the band. She believes in the concept of aftercare, which is constant follow up and support from your surgeon and his/her office. So many banders get lost in limbo. So many weight loss surgery patients in general go into their surgery very ill-prepared for what life will be like after.
Rachel walked us through her coaching style with her patients. And she followed up with some information from Vern (one of the original designers of the lapband), with some information that is kinda hard to wrap my brain around.
But I like it.
It turns out, that the band is not about RESTRICTION.
Say what? That's what all of us were/are searching for. Perfect restriction. I go into my doctor's office and I say: "I can eat an entire sub. I need better restriction." We base our restriction on how much we can eat, or how much we get "stuck". How many of us are familiar with this concept...
We have been told that the food we eat sits above the band and slowly trickles into our lower stomach over the course of 2-3 HOURS.
Turns out...if I take a bite of food (considering it was the right size and I actually chewed it), it only sits above my band for 2-3 MINUTES. Which actually makes sense if you think about it. When I take a bite of food, and put my fork down and wait, I can feel it move through my band after a few minutes.
SO, if it's not about restriction....what is is about?
It's about satiety. How long do you stay satisfied (not physically hungry) after you eat your meal.
SHIT. You want me to eat only when I am physically hungry? And stop when I am no longer physically hungry?
Well, that is still my battle. Listening to my body to tell me when to eat and when to stop is a challenge I face every day. As always, I wish there was a band for my brain.
But I did say to them, "Well, then why for all these years have you told us that the lapband works like an hourglass?" And they said "that's what they were told".
They used this idea to reinforce the fact that the band is not about restriction. For many of us with the band, when we wake up in the morning we are not physically hungry. Which is true...I can go well into mid morning before I am PHYSICALLY hungry. So if the band only "works" when there is food in our pouch...why are we not starving after having an empty pouch (for those of us who are not night eaters) when we wake up in the morning.
Turns out. They don't know. There may be a correlation to the vagus nerve. It may have to be the receptors that are located near the top of our stomach that send messages to our brain regarding hunger and satisfaction.
But, Rachel pointed out that the idea of perfect RESTRICTION is where so many lapband patients do themselves a huge disservice. She talked about acid reflux at night....a symptom that many of us try to "live with" because we don't want the restriction we have during the day to go away (if we had to get a little fluid taken out). She had a patient once who actually had a pillow made so they could sleep propped up. She has had patients that wake up with vomit on their pillow. These are all indicators that the band is probably too tight. And if we ignore those indicators, it can lead to a slip, erosion, a tired esophagus, etc.
Rachel works at a clinic that specializes in all of the weight loss surgeries....and her job is not to promote one over the other, but to educate the patient on all the pros and cons and then ultimately, let the patient choose. But she said she does tell them that the lapband is the only option that gives you the benefits for life. Now for those of you have had a bad band experience or love your other WLS, don't get upset yet. Just hear me out.
She said that with Gastric Bypass you have maybe 2 years to get your mind right (my words, not hers).
With the Sleeve, you have 9-12 months (she said maybe 6 months if you don't follow the rules).
But with a properly working band, you have the same effects on your hunger, satiety, etc at 6 months as you do at 6 years.
So in other words, all a weight loss surgery really does, as I have said over and over again, is serve as a TOOL. If you want guaranteed weight loss up front, the lapband is probably not the right choice for you. Because weight loss is not a sure thing with the band. But long run, none of the surgeries work by themselves. We all know stories of people with bypass that have gained all their weight back. As we get farther out from the birth of the sleeve, we are hearing the same types of stories. And we of course know stories of those with the band that either never lost their weight, or their weight has returned.
You have to use your tool, whichever it is, to get you on track...but in the end...we have to be the one who keep ourselves on track. If you have the band that means seeing your doctor and listening to your body. For all of us with WLS that means trying to change the things that made us fat in the first place. Maybe that is a psychological thing. Maybe it is a lack of healthy food choices (or an abundance of delicious unhealhty food choices). Maybe it's a lack of physical exercise. Hell...it's probably a combination of some or all of those. I know for me it is.
One last takeaway from our meeting. There is no "one right way" to be successful with the band. Among those of us who have the band that are on the Council, none of us are "perfect". One still smokes. One loves artificial sweetners. One loves Pepsi, candy, and pizza (okay...that's me). Some have run a marathon, other's do workout videos. Some lift weights. Some are in their 30's, one is in her 60's. Some come are financially secure, other's spend all their money at Target (me again). We are West coast and East Coast and North and South. Some are introverts and some are extroverts. It's a grab bag of personalities I tell you. A personal pet-peeve of mine is when people try and pretend to be superior to others based on their behaviors and choices (I guess this applies to all aspects of life, not just weight loss and lifestyle choices). It's important to remember that we all have a story. We are all different. Our bodies are all different. Our BRAINS are all different (that's fo sho). What works for me may not work for you...and visa versa. So it's important that we try and spend more time supporting each other and bringing each other up, rather than stepping on each other to climb higher.
Good lord. When did I become so preachy?
The sermon is over.
Happy Monday friends and followers.