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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Lap Band Success - Planning For The Holidays and WinningSo Hanukkah started Tuesday evening.  I have a large family dinner on Sunday that will include high calorie appetizers, dinner with traditional potato latkes (pancakes) and sour cream and high calorie sugary desserts and lots of wine.  I am almost 5 weeks post-op and have my lowest previous banded weight within reach for the end of 2014.  How am I going to deal with this big event and not eat too many calories, too many carbs and ruin my day with overindulgence and physical discomfort?

  • Lap Band Success - Planning For The Holidays and WinningMy day will start with a workout.  I am looking at 30 minutes minimum of sweating – that is raising my heart rate to burn calories and keep it going for 30 minutes.
  • I will have breakfast, lunch and my mid-day snack and head over to the dinner well hydrated with a large bottle of water in my hand.
  • I am going to bring some baked sweet potato latkes that I make to share.  The entire recipe is 781 calories and 13 grams of protein and will make at least 10 latkes so I can have one at less than 80 calories.  I will top with some gingered 0% Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.
  • I’m checking with my sister in law to see what the main course is.  If it’s brisket or chicken I am ok.  If it is something carby I will just bring some sliced turkey or a hardboiled egg or two to eat.
  • I’ll track what I eat regardless of my choices and decide after dinner if I can have 1 glass of wine as dessert.
  • I’ll spend my time chatting, visiting and enjoying folks I don’t get to spend time with to frequently instead of focusing on food.

Lap Band Success - Planning For The Holidays and WinningThis will get me through Sunday Hanukkah dinner, now on to Christmas Day at my daughter’s house.  We started a “tradition” of bagels and cream cheese and lox and herring for Christmas morning so all we do is grab and there’s no cooking involved.  My husband and I bring over the hot bagels from the bakery and all of the fixings including sliced tomatoes.  Dinner will be ham, chestnut dressing and yams.  Lunch is leftovers from breakfast.

  • I’ll bring lots of water and my favorite teas with me.
  • Lap Band Success - Planning For The Holidays and WinningI will put my bike on the car’s bike rack so I can get some road time in after breakfast and the gift opening.  OK- exercise and hydration handled.  Now on to food!
  • I’ll get some butter lettuce along with the tomatoes and I can have a little cream cheese (1 tablespoon) and 2 oz. of lox in a little lettuce wrap for around 112 calories and 11.4 grams protein.  If I’m still hungry I can have ¼ cup of pickled herring for an additional 92 and 10, or that can be my mid-morning snack.
  • If none of the above agrees with my new surgery I can make some eggs, or even and egg white omelet pretty easily.
  • Lunch will be a repeat of breakfast unless I choose to bring some deli meat turkey with me
  • Lap Band Success - Planning For The Holidays and WinningDinner is easy – I can have 4 oz. of ham, a medium sweet potato and be more than happy for around 300 calories and 27 grams of protein.
  • I will be well hydrated, get my exercise in, have a great family day and stay on program…I may even have the calories available for a glass of wine for dessert.

What’s your plan to WIN for the Holidays?

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We forget we are Weight Loss Surgery patientsMany of our bariatric doctors will tell us that we can “expect” a 10% regain after a couple of years.  Most of us conveniently forget we ever heard, or read, those words anywhere, as we get to the point in our journey where we are at our goal weight loving our new life, and all it means to us. 

Then something happens.  Whether we “forget” that we are weight loss surgery patients, or just get complacent in all of our daily actions, and no longer track our food, water, or exercise, the ounces start creeping back on. 

If we remain in our Lifetime Maintenance Range (our goal weight +/- 5 pounds) all is good.  It’s when that 5 pounds more becomes 10 pounds more and… well you get the picture; we are now in a bit of trouble.  Suddenly we find ourselves 10, 20 or 30 pounds higher than our goal weight, or even our lowest weight to date if we haven’t ever reached goal.  What do many of us do?  We go hide because we don’t want anyone to know that we have “failed”.  I hear over and over again these words:  “I am embarrassed to go see my doctor or my nutritionist; I am so disappointed in myself; “this works for everyone else, but not for me – I am a failure.” These words, and this negative self-talk, will get us nowhere.  All they do is to set us up to continue to struggle, lose faith and belief in ourselves, our weight loss surgery tools, and the process.  This post weight loss surgery life is a journey, and like all journeys will have its high and its low points.

Keep a positive voice in your headWhat if you changed the voices in your head?  What if, instead of saying I am ashamed, I am embarrassed; I am disappointed in me you were to say: 

  • I want to lose the weight I have gained
  • I want to be healthy
  • I can change my daily behaviors
  • I need help
  • I need support
  • I have kept off xxx pounds and I am a success
  • I can continue my success

How would those words effect your actions?  How do they sound in your head?  To me they are not only kinder and gentler words, but also empowering thoughts and phrases. 

I have been fighting with a regain which varied from 5 pounds over my lifetime maintenance range to as much as 30 pounds since 2013.  The very first thing I did was notice I was hungrier, eating larger portions easily and in retrospect making food choices that weren’t the best.  The next thing I did was clean up my food to include protein and low carb vegetables, and within a couple of days much of the hunger went away, as did a couple of the pounds.  I did this several times over the course of a few months and would go up and down 5-10 pounds.  This was crazy.  For 10 years I had kept it all together, and something was different now.  I called and made an appointment to see my bariatric surgeon and we started the process of figuring out what was going on.

I have told the story of ME over the past year, and now I have a new band, and I am steadily losing that 30 pound gain.  My lowest recorded weight is back in sight again, and when I get there I will re-evaluate.

Re-focus on youMy point in recounting my story is twofold:

  • First, there is NO SHAME in regain.  It can happen to anyone.  Start by seeing your bariatric doc and making sure all is as it should be with your WLS tool.
  • Second, there is NO SHAME in needing help to refocus on YOU as your priority on your journey to health.  We all need help and it takes different forms.  We need education, support and coaching from not only our other WLS friends, our family, but from trained professionals who can help us change our daily behaviors.  Is that your bariatric doctor?  Your dietician?  Your counselor?  Or, our WLS Success Matters BACK ON TRACK program?  Only you have that answer.  It could be all of the above.

The important thing here is to get that YOU ARE POSSIBLE and YOU CAN DO IT!

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Day one of a new journey
Cheese Pizza

So by now I am a few weeks into my new Lap Band and Plication Surgery and have noted several interesting tidbits:

  • I get full on liquids pretty quickly
  • I can sit at a table in a restaurant with others ordering some of my “favorite things” and be totally repulsed by the food when it shows up no matter how good it smells or how beautifully it is presented
  • With a cheesy pizza on my right, a barbecue pork sandwich with onion straws and black beans on my left, the only thing besides my yummy tomato bisque soup that looked good to me was the stir fry with tofu.  Interesting because I don’t like tofu.  I think it was the broccoli calling to me
  • Last week I was at an upscale restaurant in Riverside CA where their special of the evening was a beautiful seafood buffet.  Shrimp, crab legs, fish prepared several ways, salads and a dessert table worthy of a wedding party and none of it was actually appetizing yet.  The shrimp and crab legs called to me a bit, but I knew I couldn’t eat them so it was easy to just walk by it all and note that it was nicely done.
  • If I miss getting some calories in at about 3 hours since my last I start getting cold, shaky and headachy.
  • I am looking forward to starting soft foods but not with the intense need of the first time I had surgery.

Those are just a few of the differences I noted. 

On Thursday, Thanksgiving Day I started soft foods.  My first non-liquid food was 1 egg scrambled with some lite mozzarella cheese.  Had some soup later as I prepared for my dinner guests, and just before they were due to arrive I made a protein shake.  They had cheese spreads and crackers, veggies and Tzaziki, wine, and root beer as I sipped first my protein shake, then water.

Dinner was served – curried pumpkin apple soup, turkey, chestnut dressing, maple glazed yams with pecans and cranberries, green beans with slivered almonds.  And, my dinner was a small baked yam mashed with a little cinnamon to sweeten it.  It was delicious and filling. 

We cleaned up from dinner after a while and proceeded to spirited egg nog, more wine, and water for me.  We were playing a hysterically funny game of Trivial Pursuit in teams and did more laughing than question answering.  It’s all about family and fun.

Here comes dessert – pecan pie, pumpkin pie, and for me a little pumpkin protein pudding.  Hot chocolates, lots of whipped cream all over the place, and coffee for the others – while I waited my 30 minutes to start drinking water.

It was a great day!  Everyone had fun, the food was good, the company fabulous, and I stayed totally on my program.

What could be a better start to a successful holiday season?

Protein Drink
Weak Kitten

Another random thought as I headed back to the gym for the first time since surgery.  Had a BIG Learning today.  At 7:40 when I left for the gym I had had 3 cups of warm tea before I made my protein drink.  First sip of the protein drink…HMMMMM my new band is not super happy with it.  Had to take teeny tiny sips in order to get 1/2 of it down before my gym time.  I needed the fuel for my body.  My first food has been an hour or two later than this, and has been warm.  I still have half of it sitting next to me and will finish some more water before I attempt it – or I may toss it, and make something warm when I am hungry again – NOT HUNGRY NOW and loving it!

I got 16 minutes done on the elliptical my first day back to the gym, did a mile in 15:30.  Not fast, but done.  It felt great to raise my heart rate and to sweat a little.  Back again tomorrow and I’ll shoot for 20 minutes as my goal.

Tuesday got 21 minutes on the elliptical and 1.25 miles total.  I’ll take it.  Slow and steady will win the race.  Still easily staying under 900 calories a day, creating fun soft foods that I never thought of first time around.

Wednesday I did 16 minutes on the elliptical.  My mile was in 14:30 so I am getting faster without pushing myself.  The first 5 minutes still are HARD!  Then I did a ½ hour of strength training with my trainer.  We are respecting my doctor’s weight restrictions and going very easy.  It was even more difficult than Day 1 on the elliptical.  Felt like a weak kitten when I was done, and had to stop several times to rest.  My fitness goal for 2014 is to return to my pre-surgery fitness level.

Stay tuned.

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Thankful for a Second Chance

by sandi on November 26, 2014

Thankful for a Second ChanceAs most of you know on 10/1/14 my 10 year old band was removed and I lived 6 weeks without my band.  On 11/17/14 I had a new Lap Band placed and am now on my second journey as a newbie after weight loss surgery.

So what’s different this time?  So many things.  Have a look:


  • 2004 – choice of protein drinks both pre-made and powders extremely limited and none were more than satisfactory
  • 2014 – Lists of pages and pages of actually good tasting protein drinks and GREAT protein powders for making my own smoothies
  • 2004- Had to wait forever and it was really difficult to get up and walk so I had a lot of gas pain in my shoulder
  • 2014 -I brought easy fit, comfy and stylish PJs to the hospital and began my walking as soon as I got to my room and kept it up throughout the night.  Gas pain was minimal
  • 2004 – Totally at the mercy of the liquids the hospital was providing…didn’t like any of it
  • 2014 – Brought my own stash of tea and had my husband bring my favorite SF black cherry Jell-O so I could sip and taste and stay hydrated
  • 2004 – once I got home I could not walk up the stairs nor could I sleep in a bed so I spent the first week sleeping in my recliner downstairs
  • 2014 – walked upstairs with ease, able to sleep on my side in bed with no problems
  • 2004- could not bend over without severe pain
  • 2014- went out for the newspaper on the sidewalk first morning home with no problems
  • 2004- took pain meds for 5-7 days
  • 2014- took pain meds for 3 days, only to sleep on the second two days
  • 2004 – That first poop was a problem
  • 2014- still a problem
  • 2004- liquids were water, protein drinks herbal tea, chicken broth and cream of mushroom soup with the mushrooms picked out
  • 2014- liquids are water, herbal tea, decaf coffee, protein smoothies, any soup I choose thrown in my blender and liquefied first
  • 2004 – By day 7 was ready to chew the pain off the walls; severely mourning food and chewing
  • 2014 – At day 7 quite secure in my ability to make it through day 10 on liquids only
  • 2004- terrified and uncertain but hopeful
  • 2014- secure in my knowledge, careful, structured and very hopeful

I am going to continue this comparison for a while as my journey progresses since I think it may be helpful to some, and it is helpful for me to see and acknowledge the differences in my physical, mental and emotional state.  I am sure that my fitness has lots to do with my comparatively easy recovery.  I still tire quite easily and have accommodated my schedule around that fact, having plenty of time allocated for short walks and rest periods.  I desperately miss the gym but have committed to staying away until 12/1 when I will try the elliptical again for no more than 15 minutes.

As a new post-op I am taking it one day at a time, paying attention to my body and I have already had a “done” signal in the form of a runny nose and 3 sneezes when sipping soup.  I stopped.  It was enough.

Thankful for a Second Chance

As you read this I will be starting soft foods for the first time.  That should be interesting.  Tell you about that next week for sure.


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Back In The Ranks Of The Banded

by sandi on November 19, 2014


Day 1 with my new Lap BandOn Monday 11/17/14 – 10 ½ years after I was first banded I got my new Lap Band.  Along with my band Dr. Billy did a plication, and for those you who have no idea what it is, Google it since I still tired, drugged, and would definitely get something wrong in the description I give you.  Next week, and in the weeks to come there will be more.

I just got home, poured myself 4 oz. of protein & 4 oz. of water and when that is done I will get up and walk around and repeat.

It is strange to be this new again, and I am excited that it took me all morning to finish one sugar free Jell-O.

I did step on the scale this afternoon.  I did not expect to have lost any weight because my hands look like sausages and my tummy is distended.  Guess what?  I was 4 ½ pounds heavier than when I checked in to the hospital on Monday.  This doesn’t frustrate me because I know it is about all of the IV fluids that were pumped into my body.

By the way, I slowly sipped 2 oz.  of protein and I am fine.  Now THAT’S what it’s all about.

By next week I’ll be up to sharing more of the details of my journey.  Meantime, thanks to Dr. Billy and his staff and all of the amazing folks at St.  John’s Hospital.

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Lap Band Success Interrupted - I Have My New DateMy saga continues.  I have been without my WLS tool since 10/1/14.  I had all my tests done, all is ok and now it’s time for me to schedule my revision and get back on the “bandwagon”, literally as well as figuratively.

Lap Band Success Interrupted - I Have My New DateLet me tell you that not having a tool has been playing some big tricks on my emotions.  This has been a roller coaster to say the least.  The first week or so after my band was removed there was enough swelling from the surgery itself that the amount I was able to consume at one sitting was still small thank goodness.  As time passed and the swelling subsided capacity and emotional hunger out of fear and frustration returned together with a vengeance.

Some days I won, some days I lost.  Every day I tried and did my best.  Keeping both my fitness and my water in place has been key to my sanity.

Lap Band Success Interrupted - I Have My New DateSo I set my date.  On Monday, November 17th I will join the ranks of the newly banded and I am terrified, excited, and happy all in the same sentence:

  • Terrified because on October 1st I went in fully expecting to come out as a newly (re) banded patient so my worst case scenario self is that he will not be able to do surgery for some reason and I wonder then what;
  • Excited because I am getting to have a new weight loss surgery tool and I get to push restart and perhaps create numbers lower than anything I have ever seen before
  • Happy because in less than a week it will be over.  I believe that my lesson on earth this lifetime is about learning patience.  I do not wait well.  I never have, but I am improving each and every day.

Lap Band Success Interrupted - I Have My New DateThat’s it for now, so on Monday think of me and think good thoughts, think successful Lap Band surgery and moving forward with all things in their right place- food, fitness, water, vitamins, personal accountability of course.

See you all on the other side!

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In the soap opera called my life, my Lap Band was removed on October 1st, and I was given the option of either another Lap Band or an RNY Gastric Bypass.  Although VSG is a popular surgery, it was not a consideration because my insurance would not cover it.  It’s been over a month now that I am living without my weight loss surgery tool, and I WANT IT BACK AGAIN! 

Sandi before and after Weight Loss Surgery

Even though I know better, and eat healthy meals 90+ % of the time, I did find myself testing my new limits.  Not good!  Thank heavens I have both exercise and water down pat so they are daily routines in my lifestyle.  Both of these have kept me sane as I went back and forth between the positives and negatives of both surgeries, and used my emotional uncertainty as a reason for putting less than healthy foods in my mouth that +/- 10% of the time when I wasn’t making healthy choices.

New Lap BandNow, in the next chapter of the soap opera of my life I have made my decision.  I will have LAP BAND surgery just as soon as my surgeon is willing to schedule it.  I see him tomorrow, and I hope to leave the office with a date.  Certainty is a much nicer world to live in, and I am certain that knowing that my surgery is scheduled will help me sleep a little better at night while feeling a little less stressed throughout my days.

If any of you wonder how I reached my final decision it was with the help of many friends, both part of this “industry” and “community”, and others who are not at all related to the weight loss surgery community.  I kept trying to look for scientific data that would have me lean one way or the other, and it really isn’t there.  Then I spoke about what I wanted, and what I didn’t want, as a result of my surgery and someone kindly and gently coached me into the realization that I kept saying I want a Lap Band, but a bypass would…….  The key phrase always being I want a Lap Band.  So that is what I’m getting, and I will let you all know when as soon as I know.

In the interim I plan my meals, plan my water, take my vitamins, plan my exercise, and then I execute my plans to the best of my ability each day.

Thank goodness the tool between my ears functions well the majority of the time.

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Long Term Lap Band Success – Making Every Bite Count

October 29, 2014

As most of you know by now on October 1 my Lap Band was removed and my surgeon wanted me to have some tests before we did any further weight loss surgery.  Did I freak out a bit?  You bet, wouldn’t you?  I was sure I was going to wake up and be 424 pounds […]

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Long Term Lap Band Success And Making Dreams Happen

October 22, 2014

    This past weekend I was fortunate enough to be able to co-host five amazing women at a weekend retreat at the beach within 1 mile of my house.  They can from as far away as Ontario Canada, and as close as Salinas CA.  Oregon, Washington and Arizona were also represented.  Why did they […]

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Long Term Lap Band Success – With Or Without My Band

October 15, 2014

It is now more than two weeks since my band was removed.  I do hope to eventually get it replaced, but that is another blog for another time.  Here I sit today, 10 years and 5 months after my lap band surgery, living a new and different life.  At least I thought I was anyway. […]

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Long Term Lap Band Success – Look at What’s On Your Plate And How It Got There

October 8, 2014

I want to live a “normal” life.  I want to be a “normal” size.  I want to continue to increase my strength and endurance and flexibility each year, instead of losing strength, endurance and flexibility each time the calendar moves forward a year.  I managed to attain all of that.  I reached weight loss goals […]

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Long Term Lap Band Success – Ten Years And I’m Doing It All Over Again

September 24, 2014

  I will be on a flight To Orlando as you folks read this on Thursday, September 25, 2014.  WLS Success Matters is exhibiting at this year’s OAC (Obesity Action Coalition) Your Weight Matters Convention.  We are excited.  If you are in the area please stop by booth 213, and say Hi to us. I […]

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Long Term Lap Band Success – 10 Years Banded, 66 Years Alive

September 17, 2014

I just celebrated my 66th birthday on Monday and as it approached all I kept thinking about were the words of a Dylan Thomas poem: “Do not go gentle into that good night.  Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” I kept thinking about […]

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Long Term Lap Band Success – Quick and Easy Meal or 8

September 10, 2014

Many of you say you don’t cook and you need ideas that are simple and easy.  Here is a step by step that begins with buying a rotisserie chicken at Costco, Sam’s, or wherever you can get it, that is reasonably “natural” with no added MSG, Gluten Free if you need it, etc. Night one:  […]

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Long Term Lap Band Success – Almost Another Year Older And Wiser Perhaps

September 3, 2014

I had Lap Band surgery on May 28th 2004.  That was the first day of the rest of my life.  Day by day for the past 10 years I have been reclaiming my life and creating a new one bit by bit.  It has been an incredible journey so far.  I have learned much about […]

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Long Term Lap Band Patient Spends An Hour Sunday Planning For Success

August 27, 2014

One of the keys to not only losing the weight, but keeping it off was changing my lifestyle habits over these past 10 years.  After my morning coffee, water is pretty much the only liquid I drink all day.  That’s how I get at least 64 ounces in, and that is also how I keep […]

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Long Term Lap Band Success – Shopping In my Closet Is Fun

August 20, 2014

This past weekend I attended the Obesity Help Conference as an Exhibitor.  Aside from having a wonderful time and meeting so many new folks and making new friends, I did not have the angst I usually have when packing.  This was actually fun.  I have a walk in closet now filled mostly with my purchases […]

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