Orientation: How does this actually work?

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So, you’re fat and have tried what seems like EVERYTHING to lose weight. Maybe you struggle with exercise, eating healthy food, having portion control, or emotional eating. Maybe you deal with any number of the above issues and that contributes to your struggle over weight. One of the first steps to the Bariatric Surgery program at KP is to attend an orientation that explains the process, the surgery, how it works and what you will do after, who is supporting you etc.

I attended orientation twice (Lucky me!) because I chose to go away to college. Oh, well! The more knowledge the better, right? — Really, there wasn’t much difference between them, but I did meet different people at each session and for that I am grateful. One of the ladies I met shared her story. She was three years post-op and had lost 155 lbs. she used to be a size 26 and was wearing a tiny size 6 at orientation (she attended at a supporter). — AMAZING! I can only hope for such great success post-op.

Not only were there testimonials in the sessions, there were also these shot glass looking containers passed around. This will be the size of your “pouch” or “stomach” post-op. this tiny 1-2 oz. container. YIKES! — There is NO WAY my lunch would fit in that! — Clearly, this is how the weight loss is achieved. As the surgeon stated during the session, you will essentially be forcing your body to burn the fat because you will be “starving yourself”. Your tiny “pouch” will fill up quickly with a bite or two of healthy food. The surgeon also discusses liquids and how they can be too high in calories. Be careful of eating soups and smoothies as they will probably not fill you up but will definitely add to your daily calorie count. He recommended that you eat food in a particular order to avoid too many calories (i.e., eating solid foods first, then moving on to soups to “fill in the gaps”). I found this surgeon talk to be VERY helpful!

Also present at the orientation were the physical therapy team, social worker and dietician. The physical therapy team discussed getting into the most physically fit shape possible pre-op to make post-op much easier, and to help strengthen your body for surgery and a speedy recovery. You may be referred to PT pre-op and post-op depending on your health & fitness.

The dietician, unfortunately, gave little to no advice on what specifically you should be eating. There are specific “plans” for transitioning from liquids to solids, but not a whole lot on what foods are “best” nor which foods to avoid, besides the obvious sugary, fried & fatty!

The importance of having a support group was heavily emphasized with the social worker. In the KP program, the staff are all great supports, but you will also need family members, friends, and co-workers to be supportive of your new lifestyle. – I am blessed to be going through the process with my mom, aunt and close family friend. I am nervous about my household situation, as my roommates are not much for healthy eating! Wish me luck on that one!

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Mastering Weight Management

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According to the Kaiser Permanente (KP) program, you must go through a series of courses to have the surgery and be “most successful” according to KP. One of the first will be Mastering Weight Management.

The class is designed to teach label reading, calorie counting, food measuring, and how to be active and successful in weight loss. It is an eight-week course that takes place one night per week for two hours with a group of about 15-20 people. In the class you have an opportunity to weigh-in and measure yourself each week and discuss any issues you might have with the group as well as learn about the basics of losing weight. – Honestly, as an educated woman, I felt it to be a waste of time…  especially for $120!!

For me, the basics of weight loss are quite simple. In its simplest form losing weight consists of burning more calories than you take in. To further your success, you might avoid processed foods, overcooking veggies, and high volumes of food. You might make “better choices” and eat chicken over your fatty ribs or steak, maybe eat organic foods rather than clouding your body with chemically engineered foods, eat little to no wheat. – Sounds great right? Super easy. But why can’t I manage to lose the weight I need to lose?

I think there is far more to this whole weight loss thing. I think there is a ton of positive self-talk that needs to be happening in conjunction with eating healthy options in moderation and exercising. – Again, if it’s that simple, why can’t I do it?! – Maybe there is even more to it than that. One of the most helpful and thought provoking things for me to take from that class was this question, “WHY are YOU overweight?” I can’t say that I am the picture perfect person for weight loss. OBVIOUSLY! However, I can say that my answer has nothing to do with the above. It has to do with habit. I’m fat because I was raised in a house of convenience. Regular meals for breakfast and dinner were fast food or take out. Even when we had “home-cooked meals” they were often Hamburger Helper, Kraft Mac & Cheese, or some kind of casserole with a cheesey, creamy base. My family was constantly on the go. My mom and I had a 30 minute commute to and from work and school, not to mention the numerous extra curricular activities I had every day.

On top of being raised on convenience, I have also had Crohn’s Disease most of my life, but only recently diagnosed. Because of this disease, I have naturally come accustomed to certain foods that I don’t like and others that I like (little did I know that it had everything to do with what my stomach could actually process!). I was hopeful that this “Mastering Weight Management” class would be helpful in finding appropriate and HEALTHY foods that I could eat. Unfortunately, the instructor was not educated on the digestive issue and had little to offer.

Mastering Weight Management is highly recommended if you don’t understand healthy eating, what is and what is not healthy and even more so, if you need to learn calorie counting, exercise etc. – For the well educated who have been at this battle for life, through every program imaginable, you probably have it down pat and maybe need this tool (bariatric surgery) for the final step in the process of your weight loss.

A background…

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My name is Jess and I am a student of Psychology, Sociology and Human Development. Following my Undergrad, I will be going for my Master’s in Teaching the Visually Impaired (TVI) program. I am fairly outgoing and love my friends. I have enjoyed college life and think it has changed me for the better. I am sarcastic and confident in many things that I do. Unfortunately, despite my confidence in most areas of my life, I have little confidence in my health. I am fat, curvy, obese, voluptuous, whatever you chose to call it. I have been “over weight” my whole life. Even as a child I was much larger than the other kids. Now, as an adult I struggle through my weight, health choices and resenting the fact that I have to worry about what I put into my body while others can be so careless. 

Being fat isn’t just cosmetically displeasing, its also terribly inconvenient. Activities are often far more difficult and/or impossible. Amusement park rides are questionable to fit, hikes may or may not kill you, flying can be incredibly uncomfortable — I think it is for everyone, but imagine worrying about the seatbelt not fitting or invading another person’s space! Further, first impressions count. They count in job hunting, networking, dating, even finding friends. Oh, yeah, don’t let me forget the health complications to come along with all the fat… Sleep apnea, diabetes, heart failure, asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, chronic back pain, and skin rashes/infection etc to name a few! — Thankfully, I don’t have to put up with much of this and hopefully this journey will prevent any of the above from plaguing my life.

Medically speaking, I am fairly healthy — just fat! I have low blood pressure, good cholesterol, a great heart and have far more physical abilities than most people of my size, I am however, learning to live with Crohn’s Disease — We’ll talk more about that later! I can and do walk daily — either at the gym or at work. I also am fairly strong — you have to be when you’re carrying another person’s weight in fat. I enjoy physical activities but am limited to gym type activities. I used to play volleyball, basketball and was on the swim team. I miss these activities, but due to a shoulder injury in high school (and being fat), these activities are not currently do-able. 

Anyway, all of this — my life story — is all background on why I’m in the process of getting gastric bypass surgery. My future posts will discuss my experiences in the program, how things go, my struggles and (hopefully) successes. Really, this is for my own journaling and tracking, but maybe it will help others through this crazy journey — to be completely corny!

About the program:

I will be going through the Kaiser Permanente Bariatric Surgery Program in Portland, OR & Vancouver, WA. I was initially admitted to the program in May of 2009 but opted out as I was going away for college and decided success at that point in my life would be difficult. I was re-admitted in April of 2013 and have been working my way through their required classes/appointments/support groups etc. 

Steps Thus Far:

1. I obtained my initial referral through my primary care doctor. 

2. I received a call from Terry (The Coordinator for the Program) who set me up with the beginning of my appointments and sent an intake survey to my house.

3. I sent in my survey and began the eight week “Mastering Weight Management” class.

4. I attended the “Orientation to Bariatric Surgery” seminar.

5. I went to a physical therapy appointment with a therapist specializing in obese people and their physical issues.

6. I did an in-lab sleep study.

7. I am currently on the list for an appointment with the social worker of the program and the dietician.

8. The next step will either be to have a follow up with the social worker & dietician OR to have a pre-op appointment with the surgeon.

9. The last step (as far as I know right now!) is to be scheduled and have surgery.