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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Being Invisible And Obese

by sandi on May 20, 2015

Obese and InvisibleThis blog is going to be a bit of a rant.  Last week in the gym I came across the most awful example of how “invisible” we are as obese people.  I was swimming and finished my 45 minutes of laps and was giving myself 5 minutes in the hot tub as a reward.  As I got in and stared off into space my reverie was distracted by a large, yes obese woman who was at the deep end of the pool and had attempted to climb down the ladder and was now sitting on the concrete.  I hadn’t noticed her falling, and she didn’t appear to be in pain, so I went off into my happy place again.

About 2 minutes later she was still sitting on the concrete, and now she was scooting her rear towards the wall.  I thought to myself, “OK she is going to use the wall to try to get up.” Nope, she just sat there.  I remembered what it was like to weigh 424 pounds and find myself sitting in a chair and trying to get up.  Then I thought again, hmmm, I wonder if she is stuck and too embarrassed to ask for help. 

I looked around and I was the only other woman in the pool and hot tub area.  There were 6 men, half of them under 50 and pretty fit and they hadn’t even noticed anything out of the ordinary.  I decided to investigate.

I stepped out of the hot tub, walked the length of the pool to where the woman was sitting, and to preserve her dignity bent over and whispered to her – “Do you need a little help getting up?” She looked at me and said, “Yes I do, I thought I could climb down the ladder but I couldn’t.  I have a neck injury and so my movement is limited.  I don’t want to hurt you so I thought I’d just sit here until the water aerobics instructor showed up.” That would not be for 25 more minutes.  How awful for this woman.  I told her my upper body was pretty strong and I would brace myself on the wall and she could use my arm as a handrail.  She did, she got up and thanked me, hugged me as a matter of fact, and I accepted her thanks, gave her a hug back and went on my way.

Could you imagine if that poor woman, no, could you imagine if YOU had to sit there mortified, on cold concrete, in your bathing suit for 30 minutes waiting for someone to help you get up? 

I have been in uncomfortable positions over the years as a result of my obesity and have this to say to the rest of the world – FAT doesn’t make you invisible.  We are human beings, and if a small woman had been in the same situation I bet all 6 of the guys at the pool would have got up and helped her.

By the way, before I left the woman, I did tell her she deserved congratulations for showing up 5 days a week for water aerobics.

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Long Term Lap Band Success - Transformation Happens EverywhereHere I am, approaching my 11th “surgiversary”, and I am reflecting on how the world around me has changed over these years.  This was brought on by a waiter at The Marriott in Riverside, CA who asked if we wanted bread, rather than just placing it on the table assuming that because it was part of the meal – we wanted it.  I thanked him for asking, and told him that no, we didn’t want the bread, because if he put it there – we would eat it.  That brought a smile to his face, and the reply that more and more of his customers every day were saying no thank you to bread.

Long Term Lap Band Success - Transformation Happens EverywhereWOW!  This made me smile.  Eleven years ago, ten years ago, seven years ago, even three years ago I was getting strange looks from waiters and busboys who would bring bread to the table, and then I asked them to please take it away.  They would ask at least once if I was sure.  Now, my requests for no bread are commonplace and the wait staff is no longer surprised.  EXCELLENT!  Bread is a trigger food for me, so I appreciate not having it on the table.  How about you?

Long Term Lap Band Success - Transformation Happens EverywhereAnother change is how restaurants have adjusted their menus to attempt to meet the needs of their patrons, without also giving up the standard oversized portions.  I can now either order just an appetizer, or perhaps find something I like on the small bites menus of many restaurants.  Yay!  This makes my choices easier.  I am secure in the fact that I can walk in almost anywhere and find something that is not fried, is appropriate for me to eat, and also tastes good.  I can also ask for any dish to be prepared as I want it – no sauce please, or dressing on the side, or can you grill those veggies – instead of sautéing them in butter?  You see what I mean.  Special requests are no longer unusual.  With all of this country’s dietary restrictions from gluten free, low fat, low carb, or whatever most restaurants will do exactly what we ask of them.  I am paying the bill and deciding on the tip, right?

Supermarkets are another place.  Some of my favorite food items are finding their way into large chain supermarkets as well as Big Box stores like Costco.  This means I don’t have to break the budget shopping every week at Whole Foods, or equivalent high priced supermarket.

Even protein drinks and powders fall into this category.  Eleven years ago there was limited choice, and very few places to purchase.  Today, supermarkets, Big Box stores, Amazon, Health food stores, Vitamin stores – all carry a good variety of pre-made drinks as well as powders.

Long Term Lap Band Success - Transformation Happens EverywhereEverybody wants our business.  If I want my local market to carry a product I do not hesitate to have a conversation with the manager as to whether it is possible or not.  I used to have to go to one of the local Health Food Stores (before Whole Foods came to my neck of the woods), and have them order my salad dressing of choice at the time in cases of 6 so I would be sure to get it.  Now I can run up the street and pick up any number of dressings that actually taste good and meet my requirements as far as calories go.  Bolthouse brand is my current friend.

I wonder, am I noticing all of these changes because I am asking for what I want and need, or is it that the marketing arms of our country have realized that there is a whole population out there who does not think super-size is great?

What do YOU think?

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Portion Control Matters After Lap Band Surgery
Portion Control Matters After Lap Band Surgery
Portion Control Matters After Lap Band Surgery
Portion Control Matters After Lap Band Surgery

Twice a month as WLS SUCCESS MATTERS we offer FREE telephone support group calls.  This past Saturday we chatted about portion control.  It is one of the basic rules of success after weight loss surgery.  For those of us who do count calories, how we figure those calories is important.  Ponder this, if you do not weigh and measure your food, but merely use visual estimates, and then plug your numbers into an app like My Fitness Pal to “track” your day, how do you know what you are really getting in terms of nutrition?  I guess it’s better than doing nothing, but when I actually weigh and measure everything that goes into my mouth, I always am able to quickly get the scale to move.  How about you?

I made breakfast a total portion control science experiment.  Here’s what I used-

1 whole egg and 3 egg whites – it measured 3/4 cup and 5.8 oz; 1 oz of TJ’s lite shredded Mexican cheese at 1/4 cup; and 3/4 cup of my previously measured out Fiesta turkey (a Banded Living Friendly Recipe available at Banded Living)  at 5.4 oz. 

Stats for omelet for 2 were 360/43.4 and 11.8 oz.  I knew I wouldn’t eat 1/2 so I tried for my portion to be smaller- it was.

My portion weighed at 5.1 oz and my stats were 156/18.8.  I stopped when satisfied and left.  9 oz on my plate.  What I count is my entire portion because I hate algebra, and didn’t want to have to run the equation again.  LOL.

Delicious breakfast, science experiment complete. 

Although in previous iterations I would have just split the omelet, I wanted no reason to eat quite that much.  Portion Control matters (I saved 24 calories by eating less than half and in my book, when I want to be losing weight I’ll take whatever calorie savings I can muster. 



Do you know what goes on your plate?

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Dr. BillyYesterday I had a visit with my bariatric doctor.  Everything is fine, my weight is steadily decreasing, he is happy with my progress.  We chatted about life, weight loss surgery, following the rules, fine tuning the rules for about 20 minutes, and I went on with my day.  Sounds like a simple easy visit right?

NOT!  What I did prior to the visit and what occurred after the visit make it not so simple, and both gave me the opportunity to learn something new about myself, who I am, and what I need to have in place to finish my day winning.

So here was my day up until my 11:45 visit that occurred when he came into the exam room at about 12:15:


Long Term Lap Band Success - Discovering My Realities Day By Day

  • Woke up at 4:30AM
  • Did some work on Facebook while I drank 2 cups of herbal tea, 1 cup of coffee and then prepared to go to the gym
  • Headed to the gym at 7am, drank ½ my shake and did 30 minutes on the elliptical, completing 2.66 miles in that time (equals moving at 5.3 miles per hour) then did some heavy lifting (literally) with my trainer for another 30 minutes.
  • During training I drank 23.7 ounces of water.
  • Headed home finishing the rest of my protein drink
  • Had another cup of herbal tea, changed into gardening clothes and went out and moved dirt for about an hour, stopping once to drink some water, and taking a 10 minute water break when I was done.
  • Showered, got dressed, and took my water bottle with me to the doctor’s office
  • Had my visit, came home, and made some breakfast or lunch or whatever…By this time it was probably 1:45 PM
  • I ate my omelet, went to work on my computer, and then proceeded to graze my way through the rest of the day.
  • I was physically hungry all day.
  • My choices were all protein first good choices, my calories finished WAY too high.
  • I did get my exercise and my water in, had taken my supplements, failed miserably on portion control

Long Term Lap Band Success - Discovering My Realities Day By DayWhile I was in the middle of my physical and mental hunger I did not see clearly what was going on.  This morning, after stepping on the scale and seeing a 2 lb gain (more from sodium from all of the jerky I consumed than from calories, I am sure) I began to get clarity.

The full clarity came as I chatted about it with my husband.  What happened was simple – I had waited too long to eat between meals because of my personal insanity about stepping on a scale in the doc’s office.

I paid the price in feeling uncomfortable all night, bloated this morning, and super low energy all day yesterday, actually ending my day by about 8PM in front of the TV snoring soundly.

I know better than this.  We ALL know better than this.  I was hungry by my usual time yesterday (between 11 and 11:30AM) and could have eaten a cheese stick, my omelet, a few pieces of lunch meat, or anything else that had the fuel my body needed to stay energized and awake.

Long Term Lap Band Success - Discovering My Realities Day By DayInstead I played a silly mental game with myself about having the scale read ¼ of a pound less or whatever I thought the difference would be.  Did it make a difference?  I don’t know.  Did I feel awful all day because my body didn’t get the fuel it required when it required it?  You bet!

Lesson learned.  Almost eleven years post op and still a work in progress and loving the journey.

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Long Term Lap Band Success - Being Accountable To MyselfMy journey continues.  My surgiversary as an 11 year veteran of weight loss surgery approaches on 5/28/15.  I can’t believe it has been that long.  Why does my body still think it weighs 424 pounds when I get up from a chair sometimes, or when I am hiking on uneven surfaces?  Will it ever just “get” that I now can move freely, and easily, 100% of the time?  Oh well, that’s a subject for another time.

Today I want to chat about personal accountability.” I alone am responsible for my successes and my failures.” Not my surgery, not my doctor, not my friend who “made” me go out to Happy Hour, nor the Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America who just had their 5th Annual Meet & Greet in San Diego at a hotel surrounded by great restaurants and watering holes.  Not anyone else, just ME.  There I said it.

Long Term Lap Band Success - Being Accountable To Myself

Long Term Lap Band Success - Being Accountable To Myself
Long Term Lap Band Success - Being Accountable To Myself
Long Term Lap Band Success - Being Accountable To Myself
Long Term Lap Band Success - Being Accountable To Myself
Long Term Lap Band Success - Being Accountable To Myself

Before the event I headed off to San Diego with all of my travel foods packed ( protein powder, shaker bottle, jerky, and protein bars), and when I found that I had a refrigerator in my room I went and picked up some Greek yogurts and some string cheese.  I was all set.  I also was responsible for the food served at the event so I knew the protein and calorie counts in all of it.

So how did I come home and step on the scale this morning to find a 4 pound weight gain?  It really wasn’t difficult.  As a matter of fact it was quite easy…Hmmm, let’s review:

  • Left home Wednesday evening immediately after facilitating a class and drove for 4+ hours.  Dinner was a protein bar and some jerky
  • At about 11PM after checking in to our hotel for the night we ran across the street for some late night protein (extra calories here!)
  • Each evening included at least 1 cocktail, or 1 glass of wine.
  • Sunday was the worst with a margarita, then chips and guacamole
  • Somehow I also thought that a cup of tea, and then a Quest bar before bed was somehow okay
  • Monday morning brunch was Maryland crab cake over spinach topped with a poached egg.  At least I had them hold the Hollandaise.
  • Back home Monday evening and I made sure to get our luggage out of my car and head quickly to the market to get some of “MY FOOD”.  Dinner was baby spinach, cucumber, tomato, 2 tablespoons feta crumbles, sliced olives and 2 ounces of smoked salmon with 2 tablespoons feta dill dressing.  Whew, back in my groove again.

What was I thinking?  Did I really expect that a drink each evening and guacamole and chips would not have me gaining weight?  Then add in that I worked out each day as planned, however it was for 30 minutes, not 45-90 as per my regular routine.  YES.

I knew that by making the choices I did I would show a weight gain at a time when I was working on losing.  It was okay for me.  Today is day one of me being Back On Track.  It’s 6:30 PM and I have eaten 609 calories, 72 grams of protein and drank 78 ounces of water.  Dinner is mahi-mahi marinated with garlic and sea salt and roasted asparagus.  I swam for 50 minutes this morning, and have my food planned for the week,

I will see the scale move back to last week’s number, and then keep going down.

I have no shame about choosing to have a cocktail, or the guacamole and chips.  I have no time or patience for that emotion in my life.

I made some choices, I owned them, and now I am making other choices. 

I alone am responsible for my successes, and my failures.

I had a wonderful time at the Meet & Greet.  So many familiar faces and so many new ones, great speakers, great parties, and we were raising funds to save lives at the same time.  What could be better?

Update… With my daily accountability I have shed the gain, and am moving full speed ahead.

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Fifteen Minute Chicken Salad – As YOU Like it

Fifteen Minute Chicken Salad - As YOU Like it
Fifteen Minute Chicken Salad - As YOU Like it
Fifteen Minute Chicken Salad - As YOU Like it

You all are getting used to me finding great and easy ways to use rotisserie chicken that I get from Costco.  It is good, meaty chicken and each one yields between 1 ½ to 2 lbs of meat.  I take this and weigh out 8 ounces and use my vacuum sealer to get these packages ready for freezing.  When opened and thawed this meat tastes like you just peeled it off the chicken. 

This morning I decided I wanted chicken salad for lunches for a few days so I grabbed a package out of the freezer, cut open the bag, defrosted it in my microwave and threw together a chicken salad.  This made 4 servings for us at less than 130 calories each.  Here’s what I used and how I tossed it together:


  • 8 ounces of rotisserie chicken chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery chopped
  • 3 mini sweet peppers chopped
  • 5 Tablespoons Bolthouse Cilantro Avocado dressing


  • Mix all of the above together in a large bowl
  • Separate into 4 containers and store in the refrigerator.


  • Makes 4 servings, each with approximately 127 calories and 17.4 grams protein

Alternatives to this would be to leave the celery in, take out the peppers and:

  • Add ½ cup of skinned chopped apples – no basic change in calorie/protein count
  • Add ½ ounce chopped walnuts to the celery and apples – this would increase the calorie count to about 150/17.5 per serving
  • Add 1 oz of sliced grapes to the celery, apples and walnut- this would increase the calorie count to about 155/17.5 per serving
  • Season with curry powder

What I love about this is it’s real food, not canned, and can be altered slightly for different tastes.  I can eat it over a handful of baby spinach and sliced cucumbers, or eat it right out of the container, or make a lettuce wrap with it.

It is tasty, meets my nutritional requirements and is quick and easy to make.  A sure WIN for me.

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Trader Joe’s once again made it possible for me to enjoy one of my old favorite deli meals – Pastrami and Swiss.  Just how did they do that for me?  They now have uncured pastrami that is as lean as can be, and 2 ounces of it are 100 calories and 15 grams of protein.  Add some Jarslberg Lite Swiss Cheese, some deli mustard, and I am in heaven. 

I made our Sunday morning breakfast with the pastrami and cheese in an omelet, and it rocked! 

Pastrami and Swiss Cheese - Not On Rye BreadHere is how I did it- just a few ingredients and a few simple steps for an omelet for 2:


  • 1 whole egg
  • 5 egg whites
  • 3 ounces Trader Joe’s pastrami
  • 1 slice Jarslberg Lite Swiss Cheese
  • Deli mustard if desired as a condiment


  1. In a preheated 10 inch skillet that has been lightly sprayed with non-stick spray (I currently use coconut oil spray) place the pastrami, add 2 tablespoons of water, cover and let steam for a minute
  2. Stir and cover for another minute to evaporate the water and thoroughly heat the pastrami.  Remove the pastrami to a plate, spray the skillet again
  3. Whisk together the 1 egg and 5 egg whites (I add a drop of water to this) and pour into your prepared skillet on medium heat
  4. Pastrami and Swiss Cheese - Not On Rye BreadCover and cook eggs until almost set
  5. Add pastrami first, and then strips of the cheese to ½ of the omelet
  6. With a spatula, fold in half covering the pastrami and cheese
  7. Lower heat, add a few drops of water to the pan and cover to finish the cooking and melt the cheese
  8. Slide onto a plate, cut in half with the spatula and enjoy

Pastrami and Swiss Cheese - Not On Rye BreadNutrition:  This makes 2 servings, each with around 180 calories and 27.25 grams protein.


Serve with a dollop of deli mustard on the side and enjoy your Sunday, New York breakfast, for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.


Just want pastrami and cheese with no eggs?  Heat the pastrami in a skillet as per the directions above, place on sprayed cookie sheet, foil or parchment paper, and broil for a minute or so until cheese has melted.

Place on lettuce or just enjoy as is with a fork and knife.

Who said I can’t enjoy my New York Delicatessen Foods after Weight Loss Surgery?

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Hippity Hop, Every Store Looks Like A Candy Shop – How I Beat The Easter Bunny After Lap Band Surgery

April 1, 2015

I went into my local CVS Drugstore as I left the gym today to purchase an 8 x 10 frame because it was in the same shopping plaza as my gym.  Easy, convenient, no extra time or gas (It’s currently over $3.00 a gallon again in CA).  It’s a store I don’t frequent often so […]

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Managing Food And Alcohol While Out With Friends Or Family – Long Term Lap Band Success

March 25, 2015

One of the most difficult things I have had to do over the past 11 years is to learn how to eat at family functions and out at restaurants, or yes, even at Happy Hours with friends.  First thing I would like to say is that it is definitely a BIG learning, since regardless of […]

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Long Term Lap Band Success – Shopping Can Be Scary

March 18, 2015

Here I was, almost 11 years after surgery the first time, 4 months post-op from my new band placement and off to shop for a retro outfit to wear to the Weight Loss Surgery Foundation’s Fifth Annual Meet & Greet next month in San Diego.  I am not a one size fits all body so […]

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Long Term Lap Band Success – Stop And Smell The Roses

March 11, 2015

I had the most amazing thing just happen to me.  It’s something that I never experienced before.  I thought, hmmm, I wonder if I could borrow a dress from Angie.  Angie is not only a friend, she does bookkeeping for both of my companies, and she is anywhere between a size 6 and 10 depending […]

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Living A Life I Never Dreamed Possible With My Lap Band

March 4, 2015

My 11th year “surgiversary” is almost here.  I had my Lap Band Surgery on May 28th 2004.  I never even dreamed of losing more than half of my 424 pound body weight at that time, let alone be able to enjoy the active life I am living today, at 66. I just spent a week […]

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Success After Lap Band surgery Take 2 – And The Story Continues

February 25, 2015

I am sitting here at the same weight I was after Lap Band Surgery followed by my plastic surgery.  That puts me at the same weight that I was in 2009, and it is 6 years later.  I am a happy camper for sure since I had some regain while my doctor, and I, figured […]

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Fabulous Breakfast After Weight Loss Surgery – Protein Packed Flourless Ricotta Pancakes With Blueberry Syrup

February 25, 2015

When you all are ready this I will be on a plane returning from a week in Hawaii, so ALOHA! This morning I decided to try another take on the flourless pancakes and share my step by step with you.  This recipe will easily feed 2, I chose to serve it with some Trader Joe’s […]

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Learning To Love Myself Before, During And After Weight Loss Surgery

February 11, 2015

Let’s face it, when I looked in the mirror in 2004 and saw a 424 pound woman staring back at me I was not happy.  But is that really what I saw when I looked?  I don’t think so.  I was so deep in denial of what I had allowed to happen to my body […]

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Success After Weight Loss Surgery Means Enjoying Food Not Dieting

February 4, 2015

I have said many times before that I am NOT on a diet although I track my calories and protein.  I do that to live in awareness so that if the scale goes up or my clothes feel snug I know why.  It’s quite simple really.  It also gives me the opportunity to change what […]

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What Are You Waiting For? – Choose WLS Success Today

January 28, 2015

As I sit here messaging with two folks on Facebook, trying to just walk them through their own thought process about their weight loss surgery, their life in general, their reasons and excuses for where they are today I am grateful that “the stars aligned” and brought me to my bariatric doc in 2004.  I […]

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