How Weight Loss Surgery Saved My Life

by sandi on October 26, 2010

My friend Gloria and I in my old pants. Can you believe it?


I have been fighting the fat war since I was 4 years old. I finally won the war, leaving only small skirmishes that crop up regularly. My friends tell me these little battles are what a “normal” person always deals with. 

 Just five years ago, I was 424 pounds, had arthritis in my right knee, and had trouble walking across a parking lot. My asthma forced me to stop and catch my breath several times across those parking lots. I rented a scooter to be able to take my grandkids to Disneyland. I let my husband go into the market while I waited in the truck. People looked fearfully at me when I was getting on a plane, hoping I wasn’t sitting next to them.  In March 2004 I had a hypertension crisis that got my attention. To this point, my arthritis, asthma, reflux, and sleep apnea had not yet been enough to make me take notice. 

I have succeeded at most everything I have tried in life — I have a wonderful marriage of more than 40 years to my soul mate, a great daughter, four awesome grandchildren, and a successful business I built from scratch over 20 years ago. But I could NEVER get a handle on my weight for longer than five minutes. 

On 5/28/2004, at 55 years old, I had life-changing, and life-saving, Lap-Band® surgery. Within 28 months I had lost 250 pounds. Now, more than five years after surgery, I am holding at 175 pounds and loving it. I am off all my medications and move freely and vigorously through my new life. 

 With the help of this tool and a great support team I have reached a place where it is fun to go anywhere and try new things, and I actually enjoy looking at pictures of myself (well, most of the time). 

 If you are struggling with your weight, you may find some useful information and solutions here. I have created this blog because something like it would have made a big difference to me when I was going through the decisions and the process myself. 

 As the old saying goes, information is power. If you are struggling with your weight, I want you to have the information you need to answer the questions you have so that you can make the best decision possible for you to have a richer life. 

 I hope you find this useful. I look forward to hearing from you.  

Take a look at some of our Gastric Banding Tips —  Here

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Our New Book – Is Lap Band Surgery For Me?

by sandi on October 26, 2010

Our new book is now shipping on amazon!  Read an excerpt here.

Visit us at

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 Hard to get going
 Maintaining weight loss

I woke up this morning to a gray sky, warm and humid house and a low level of energy.  As I sat with my coffee cup I urged myself gently to get going to the gym.  I finally made it out of the house and to the gym and was in the water by 7:45 AM which was at least ½ hour later than my typical latest start. 

The important part, I was there.  Although I frequently have arguments with myself about getting in gear and going, I rarely “win” the argument to stay home.  While swimming laps for 45 minutes I thought about how and why I get myself up and out at least 5 days a week and “exercise on purpose” for a minimum of 210 minutes on those 5 days.  In review, my typical time spent moving on purpose is 250 minutes total on those 5 days.  Saturday and Sunday are “free” days.  I may walk on the beach, go for a bicycle ride, go to the gym and swim or use the elliptical, work hard at domestic goddess duties, or just hang out with friends and relatives.  Whatever I do on the weekends you can bet it is more intense and lots more than I did when I was 424 pounds.

Back to how and why I get myself going 5 days a week.  The how is easy when it’s put into words.  It’s a little harder to make it a habit.  Every evening, before I start dinner prep I get my gym clothes ready and my gym bag, water bottle and music go into my car.  No excuses in the morning for me.  That act alone has moved me out the door on more mornings than I can count.  On my swim days my bathing suit goes on under my clothes so when I get to the gym its grab my goggles and bathing cap and towel, shove my clothes and bag in the locker and out to the pool.  I never could figure out why at 6 or 7AM folks were completely undressing and changing to a bathing suit.  I strive for efficiency of motion and a plan.  I asked a woman once if she was coming from work at that time and she said, no, from home, but was afraid she would forget her underwear if she didn’t put it on first.  I held in my laughter and thought…so keep an extra set in your gym bag or in your car or both places.

On those really tired, stressed, achy, lazy mornings I also give myself permission to do a shorter workout.  When I’m not feeling it I make a pact with myself that I can stop at 15 minutes of …….(whatever it is I would be doing that day) if I am still not feeling it.  Funny thing, I have NEVER stopped.  I always just continue and some of those days turn into my best workouts.

Now for the why; so just why is it that exercise is a necessary component of long term success after weight loss surgery?  Think about it this way.  We did not put weight on by running marathons every week, now did we?  More than likely, every year we put on more weight we became less and less active, turning more and more muscle into the F word…fat.  For me that resulted in a huge blob at 424 pounds, barely able to get up and down from a chair herself, struggling to get through every day.  You’d think that hauling all that weight around would burn lots of calories…NOPE.  It was mostly fat and my metabolism was so very slow that I had no energy, no muscle and no weight loss of any significance. 

 The lovely "dreaded" elliptical
 Swimming for health

How did I change that?  I had surgery, reduced my caloric intake to 1200 calories a day and began moving; slowly at first, just walking more than I did before, not on purpose, just in the process of living.  As the weight came off and I was moving around with a little bit of freedom (somewhere at about 325-350 pounds) I knew I needed to exercise.  I had arthritis and walking hurt my knee, my back, my very being so that was not going to be my exercise of choice.  I chose swimming, and in the course of the next year worked up to swimming 45-60 minutes a day without stopping. 

Was I crazy?  No – here’s my WHY:

  • I could swim and my knee actually felt better, not worse, the pain diminished
  • I felt good- all of those endorphins (the feel good hormones) were helping me keep a positive mental attitude which helped me get back to the pool the next day
  • I was building muscle and muscle burns more calories than fat so my weight loss didn’t level off, it just kept right on going
  • I was having fewer bouts of upper respiratory infections and my chronic bronchitis and asthma were virtually non-existent
  • I was empowered by the possibilities of who I was becoming as I moved towards a normal life
  • I looked better, healthier, more alert and alive because I felt that way
  • I did it because I COULD
  • I found myself wanting to try new things so I did that too adding weight training and the elliptical to my fitness schedule

Believe me I used to view exercise as a “four letter word” until I wrapped my head around all of the good things exercise brought into my life and let go of the resistance.

Find something you like doing and just get started.  So what if you can only last 2 minutes the first time?  That’s great!  You did it!!!  It’s like those folks say …..JUST DO IT!

Now as I sit here typing I can actually feel my muscles and I like that feeling…It’s GOOD TO BE ALIVE.

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Why I Attend Weight Loss Surgery Events

by sandi on July 23, 2014

As a blogger who has been around the weight loss surgery community for 10+ years now I am often asked which weight loss surgery event someone should attend.  My answer is simple and straightforward – ALL OF THEM. 

These events are amazing!  Each one has its own set of value and I thought I would give you my point of view on the three I choose to attend.

OAC ConventionOAC- YOUR WEIGHT MATTERS NATIONAL CONVENTION – this event is scheduled for September 25 -28 in Orlando Fl.  The speakers are great, many coming directly from the medical field and much evidence based data is presented in a wonderful format.  There is always a great selection of talks to attend.  The dinners are fun and we get to meet folks who we often chat with daily on Facebook.  This organization defends the rights of those of us who have been impacted by obesity and provides education, advocacy and support.  Their bias buster campaigns are quick to react to situations where we are being bullied because of our weight.  I look forward to spending time catching up with many of my friends here.  I have served on their committees and I have walked the halls of Capitol Hill with these always busy folks.  I am proud to be a member.

Obesity Help Meet & Greet 2014OBESITY HELP – this event is coming up August 15th and 16th and I like it because it is easy for me to get to this year in Manhattan Beach CA and I will have the opportunity to listen to Chef Graham Elliot speak about his journey to health after weight loss surgery.  The speakers are frequently professionals in the weight loss/health/nutrition industry, the get- togethers are fun and entertaining and the big moment is always the fashion show when those who never in their wildest dreams would have thought of walking down a runway and strutting their stuff.  It’s always a tear jerker for me. 

WLSFA Meet & Greet 2015Last, but definitely not least is WLSFA MEET & GREET 2015 ANNUAL FUNDRAISER AND 5th ANNIVERSARY- this event is near and dear to my heart as I am a member of the Board of Directors of the ONLY organization to offer grants for weight loss surgery for those who are unable to fund it themselves.  The dates are April 10-12, 2015 in San Diego CA so make your plans now to join me there.  This event is a FUNDRAISER so it is a double play-no, actually it’s a home run….help fund grants for those who were without hope, meet new people, get educated and join our celebrity Ambassador of Hope in celebrating our 5th anniversary.  We are very proud of how far we have been able to come in funding 13 grants so far.  We do it ONLY because of your help.  Why not mix and mingle, learn and provide support and receive it?

What’s the bottom line?  Every one of these events is unique.  All three offer safe and welcoming environments for folks on the same journey as you who come from all over the world to meet, share, learn and celebrate their new lives.

I want to see ALL of my friends, no you are my family, join me in attending all three wonderful events over the next 12 months.  You can never have too much support or too many friends in your life!

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Tired Morning Eyes
Enjoying the good feeling after my daily swim
Ready for the day

I woke up this morning with all of my joints hurting, not just my arthritic knee.  Even my elbows were hurting and my thumbs if you could imagine.  I had nothing pressing and could actually have turned over and tried to go back to sleep, or at least taken some pain meds and just zoned out for the rest of the day.  I didn’t. 

Why?  Because doing nothing would have not helped and pain meds are only temporary. 

MOVING MY BODY is what gives me the most relief.  Got myself out of bed, had some coffee, put on my new bathing suit (new clothes always raise the spirits) and took myself off to the gym to swim away my aches and pains.  Swimming felt wonderful.  I got to stretch my body, warm all of my muscles up with an easy full body workout and get those feel good hormones going.  I hit the triple, now to take it home.

I was showered, my hair was washed and I had on light, airy, summer clothes that I felt good wearing.  I still hurt but I was keeping it going.  When I looked in the mirror I saw wet stringy looking hair, a face devoid of makeup but definitely showing the pain.  I didn’t like it and then I realized.  I had the ability to change this.  Just like a quick blow dry of my hair and 5 minutes worth of make-up could change my appearance, I could change my attitude.

So I did it.  And I timed it.  It took me 15 minutes to quickly do my hair and moisturize my face and put a little make up on.  When done, I looked in the mirror and said to myself- Self, that’s better…it may not be your best day, but it is better than it was at 5:30 this morning.  I also made a pact with myself to get up and move a little every hour so my joints would not stiffen up completely again.  This also helps and I have many little household chores I can accomplish in 5-10 minutes.  My first was making a second cup of tea.  My next was taking in the trash and feeding the fish in my little pond.  In about 15 minutes I will be emptying the dishwasher.  And so on, and so forth.

I have control over my attitude, how I choose to treat my arthritis pain and how I have learned to not use food to soothe the savage beast.  It doesn’t work.  It makes it worse.

How do you turn your bad days around?

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Panic ensues
Get on with it on the elliptical
Moving on with weight training
Love my exercise routine
I CAN do it!

I got a text from my trainer on 7/9 telling me she would be unavailable until 7/28 due to a family emergency.  I immediately wished her the best with her family situation and hit send.

Then the panic ensued.  What am I going to do while she’s gone?  That is a total of 5 training sessions I will miss.  I can’t do it without her.  I am going to lose all of the progress I have made.  I can’t not weight train.

My heart was beating fast, I think I was even sweating.  I was ready to cry.

Then I realized what I was doing to myself.  And stopped.  And called the gym.  And scheduled with another trainer for those weeks.

Wow, who was this person worried about keeping her fitness going?  Panic because someone wasn’t going to kick my butt into gear 2x a weekly and challenge me to be my best and try harder?  What was all that about.

For the past 10 years I have been kicking my own butt daily and challenging myself to be good, better, and having the goal of doing my very best each and every day,

This morning I realized that even if I didn’t have a trainer to make sure I was not favoring one side over another due to my scoliosis I could still swim, use the elliptical, and probably even safely do a few push-ups and bicep and tricep work.

End of story.

Why is change so difficult?

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Beautiful Alaska
Touring by helicopter
Alaskan Glacier
I fit in the helicopter
Walking safely on the glacier
Really enjoying my trip after Weight Loss Surgery

OK, I think this might be the last of my vacation 2014 blogs, or not.  You can always hope.  I think the most incredible moment for me on my tour of Alaska, Victoria BC, and Washington state had to be the helicopter to the glacier and the walk/hike around the glacier.  Was it because of its beauty?  Yes.  Was it because trees that were over 100 feet tall that we sped by, seemingly in their branches looked to be no bigger than 8 or 10 feet?  Yes.  Was it because Alaska mountains, glaciers, lakes, fjords are some of the most beautiful places I have ever visited?  Yes.

Was all of this REALLY why it was the most incredible moment on the trip for me?  I had seen this all before in the year 2000 when I had previously visited.  It still was as spectacular; it still carried its entire WOW factor, but none of this was the REAL reason.

This was a Non Scale Victory for me of the BIGGEST dimensions.  Fourteen years ago when I climbed, no struggled to crawl up into the helicopter and place my huge body on the two seats I had to buy for it, then have a seat belt extension added, then have a door closed on me that made me feel like an overstuffed sardine in a can, I still enjoyed the views only available from the helicopter.  When we landed on the glacier I struggled to get out of the helicopter and walk far enough away from it so it could take off and leave us in the peace and quiet that only thousands of years’ worth of ice could provide.  That was as far as I would walk.  I was terrified.  I was terrified that I would fall on the ice and it would take an army to get me up; I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to get back into the helicopter when it came back for us.  Even looking around me and being awestruck by the majesty of my surroundings could not diminish that fire of fear that was burning inside.  MAJOR BUZZ KILL!

Fast forward to the year 2014.  I bought 1 seat, wore a size Medium safety vest (brightly colored so we could be seen if we got lost or fell in somewhere I presume; strapped on my glacier boots and literally hopped effortlessly into the helicopter.  I strapped myself in, helped with the door closing, put on my headphones and opened my eyes wide and just enjoyed the vistas and the pilot’s chatter.  NO FEAR.  We arrived and set down and I removed myself from the helicopter with the same ease and walked over and grabbed a walking stick and was ready to go.  I walked/hiked with the rest of the group, made a silly face for the picture at the big hole in the ice and generally had a great time.  ME.  I DID IT.  I truly was given a second chance at life to be able to enjoy moving freely, no longer constrained by my obesity, in my normal size everything, toasty and warm.  When it was time to leave the glacier and get back into the helicopter for the flight back I almost froze my tonsils (if I had any) because my mouth was open in a HUGE SMILE.  Then I stepped back up into the helicopter, strapped in, put on my headphones and the tears began to flow.  As I write this I am getting misty all over again.  This is a very emotional tale for me to tell.

I am grateful beyond words for this opportunity at a second chance to live and to truly EXPERIENCE LIFE with freedom.  All of this, thanks to a device “buckled” around my stomach and my hard work over the past 10 years.  Weight Loss Surgery Saved My Life.

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Our “Let’s start off the Summer
With a Banded Living/Wellesse Summer of Health Giveaway!” Contest is over.
Please check back frequently for our next contest.
Thank you for your participation

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Cruising Alaska June 2014

by sandi on June 25, 2014

Cruising Alaska Wonderful NSVIt’s around 11 AM on the Pacific Ocean.  I just got back to my cabin after doing my 30 minutes on the elliptical in the gym on the ship.  I stripped off my sweaty gym clothes, was ready to step into the shower and decided instead to grab the spa robe hanging in the closet and fill up my water bottles before I showered.  I put on the robe, tied it, filled up my bottles to the tune of 86.6 ounces of water and looked at myself in the mirror and started to cry.  I couldn’t believe what I had just done and how incredible I was feeling.

I had cruised to Alaska 14 years ago, in the year 2000.  I was then 51 years old, 400+ pounds (I didn’t really know) and was bound and determined to enjoy my trip and all of the excursions we had planned.  I never even saw the inside of the gym that entire trip.  However, I did reach into the closet to put on the spa robe to head to the spa for a facial.  I tried both robes in the closet and the two together might have fit around me, but neither one even came close individually.  I was mortified.  My husband decided to ask our room steward, Harry, for a larger robe.  After all, not everyone was a tiny person.  Harry, wanting to do everything possible for us, had someone actually purchase a men’s 5x robe for me at our first port and told me it was mine to keep.  Yes, he earned a wonderful tip because that was amazing service for sure, but here I was, still mortified that anyone had to go out of their way to accommodate my size. 

Now comes today.  I came into the room sweaty, still thirsty after sipping 20 ounces in the gym and 20 ounces earlier that day, stripped off my sweaty gym clothes and just reached into the closet in the cabin and pulled out the robe and put it on.  I had the expectation that it would fit.  It did, it is actually quite loose and baggy on me and when I looked in the mirror I was reminded of just how hard it was to be 424 pounds and how grateful I was to have been able to have LAP-BAND surgery, shed my excess poundage, get fit and at 65+ years young, repeat this amazing cruise and LIVE and ENJOY every day with freedom.

The robe was just one of many non-scale victories I am celebrating this vacation.

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Sharing An Afternoon With Wellesse – Traveling With My Lap Band

June 25, 2014

I recently had the opportunity to visit the little sleepy town of Ferndale, WA and spend some time with the folks from Wellesse.  It amazed me to find their facility in the middle of beautiful pastureland.  We always think of manufacturing as a “dirty job” with nasty smokestacks spewing horrible chemicals into our air.  Not […]

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Taking A Successful Vacation With My LAP-BAND

June 18, 2014

It’s June, vacation time for many and I am once again on the road.  As I plan for 10 days away from home I notice that I have developed a pattern that I began shortly after surgery and have built on and fine-tuned over the past 10 years.  Here are some of the things I […]

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Life After LAP-BAND Surgery – Vacations Become Non Scale Victories

June 11, 2014

When you all read this I will be sailing the inland passage to Alaska for the second time in my life.  I am fortunate to be able to do this.  The first time was over 10 years ago and it was an incredible experience at that time.  Why?  Because, even though I was over 400 […]

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Long Term LAP-BAND® Success – The Masters Meet The Makers Take Four

June 4, 2014

Every spring since 2010 the “makers” of the LAP-BAND® bring together a group of patient advocates, folks who spend their time blogging, vlogging, or hosting websites that reach thousands upon thousands of Weight Loss Surgery patients from considerers to long time veterans.  This spring was no different, and for that I am grateful to the […]

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Long Term Lap Band Success – Try Something New

May 28, 2014

    Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of my LAP-BAND surgery.  Boy time flies when you’re having fun and working hard.  Set the clock back to May 2004 and who was I and where was I?  I was a 424 pound woman, business owner, wife, mother, grandmother who barely made it through the day.  My […]

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Getting Lazy Doesn’t Work Well After Weight Loss Surgery

May 14, 2014

Here it is May 2014.  I have found myself reverting to some old habits that didn’t serve me well at 424 pounds and that will not serve me well today, maintaining the 250 pound loss that I worked so hard to achieve.  It hit me this morning as I swam laps in the pool and […]

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Long Term Weight Loss Surgery Success – My Relationship With Food

May 7, 2014

As I started my journey in May of 2004 at 424 pounds I certainly had what I would consider an inappropriate relationship with food.  My meals were often healthy, my snacks were too, but my portions were out of control and I ate all day.  That’s how I lived for many, many years.  Then, as […]

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It’s Almost Summer So We’re Giving Away ICE-CREAM – Protein Ice Cream Of course!

April 30, 2014

Our “It’s Almost Summer So We’re Giving Away ICE-CREAM Protein Ice Cream Of course!” Contest is over.Please check back frequently for our next contest.Thank you for your participation

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It’s As Simple As ABC Or Not – Long Term Weight Loss Surgery Success

April 27, 2014

As I look back over my journey which began on May 28, 2004 I see that there is a way to summarize how I and many others have achieved success and maintained it after Weight Loss Surgery.  It can be as simple as A…B…C… or not.  Each of us gets to choose how much and […]

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Living With My Lap Band – WLSFA 2014 Non Scale Victories and More

April 23, 2014

            Many of you know that I recently returned from the 2014 WLSFA Sand & Sea Meet & Greet which was 3 days on land in Tampa, FL and then 5 days at sea on the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas.  I left my house Wednesday April 2nd, and […]

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