Thursday, October 30, 2014

The battle

Over the last few weeks I have had a number of discussions with people who have had WLS and others who are interested in the process, possible outcomes and any significant down sides. Almost all of the folks who have had surgery have regained some of the weight originally lost. That seems to be a forgone conclusion. The reasons why on the other hand are very complex. Several simply reestablished the eating habits they had before the surgery and the regaining of weight was inevitable. They had not accepted the fact that their excess weight was a function of their own eating habits. A lot of excuses are made for weight gain and frankly the absolute realization that it is their problem seemed impossible to accept. They see themselves as the injured party and the weight loss is not the result of their own behavior but something that affected them externally.  A couple of post-WLS folks had dropped the weight and felt uncomfortable or even unhealthy at the maximal point of the weight loss. If they paid attention to their diet, they gained some of the weight loss back, but did finally reach a weight level where they felt comfortable in their own skin (and clothes).  This is an important realization. Once you find that point, you can relax and just focus on maintaining it. If you pay attention to what and when you eat, the equilibrium point in the weight profile can be maintained.

I have made this point before about those individuals looking at WLS as a strategy. Some seem to feel that it is the final answer to their weight issues and if they lose weight they will be healthier, more energetic and happier. And most of the time that is true. But WLS will not rid you of heart disease issues or other health issues. It is true that diabetes will probably disappear with the weight loss, but if you regain weight after the WLS it will return. It is highly weight dependent. WLS will change your life. It will not give you a new one however. You will have to deal with the probable weight gain and know how to minimize it. You will note that I said “Minimize it”. It is a fact that will occur. Your surgeon can give you the opportunity to lose weight, but they cannot keep you from regaining it. That is up to you

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


I met a young man at a local thriftstore the other day. I have seen him in several of the local Goodwill stores and he has started to recognize me as well. He stands out. He currently weighs between 300 and 400 pounds and is about 5 feet 10 inches tall. Lots of tattoos on his neck and arms. He has been very polite in all of our interactions, and I told him that I had once weighed 300 pounds. He looked at me carefully and asked how I had lost the weight. I told him weight loss surgery. That opened a flood gate of questions, concerns and a clear dialogue was developed. He was in the early stages of the 6 month program at Kaiser leading to potential weight loss surgery. The program requires you to make a concerted effort to loose weight on your own, before they will do WLS. They provide weekly group meetings to help you in the process. He seemed happy with the progress he had made and looked forward to the weekly guidance sessions. He told me he didn’t have too many risk factor issues like heart problems, diabetes and other physical problems.  But I wasn’t sure he was telling me the complete truth.

We spent some time discussing the surgery (proposed gastric sleeve) and what were things he could anticipate down the road after the surgery. I l=told him about the rapid weight loss amd some of the dietary problems I encountered. I also told him about my current battle to take off some of the weight I gained after that first amazing year of weight loss. The psychology of the weight loss process is extremely important in that post-surgery world. Failure to exercise, increased snacking, and eating the wrong kinds of foods can all be part of a problematical resolution. I asked him about why he felt he needed to have the surgery and he told me about failed attempts to lose weight in the past. Now he said he was doing it for himself. He was going to try to lose the weight so that he could be healthier, happier and in a better place. He had the right attitude and I wished him luck. But it is not just luck. It is the will to not go back to where you were before you lost weight.  There is no alternative that says that you can return to your old habits. There are sacrifices that have to be made. As this blog has stated many times this WLS should not be a sentence of dull, tasteless food or the ability to go out to restaurants and eat with your friends. It opens new life vistas that while they do have some restrictions on how much you eat, do not restrict you at all about the types of foods you eat. So Eric, get through this early stage process and get the surgery done as soon as possible. You will be starting a whole new life. Get started as soon as possible.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Teaching kids to cook

I kind of entered a new phase in my Eight Bites progress. While I still struggle a bit every day with what and how much I eat I am not as obsessed about it as I have been. I am working at the gym four days a week, walking on the treadmill and lifting weights. Exercising the abdominal core and trying to strengthen the legs and back. My shoulder hurts all the time so I have done little work on that, limiting my exercise to the abdomen, back and legs.

But the exercise has been going on for almost a year. What is new is that I am teaching middle school kids how to cook. A local charter school has a restaurant on its site that is no longer functioning as a working restaurant. Now while fully capable with commercial stove, stainless work areas, sinks and refrigeration it is use as an overflow class room for the music program, another home ec cooking class and chorus class. I found out about it, while working for the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation and their Big Rig cooking project. While I felt that the actual teaching of kids (and adults) could be done more effectively, the philosophy of the program regarding eating better, simpler, and more earth friendly was a good one.

I contacted the principal of the charter school and provided her with information on my background and then with a class plan. She got District permission for me to carry out an initial three week class for 12 kids ranging in age from 12 to 14. The initial class had seven boys and four girls. I got a list of the kids, and any potential food allergies and issues before the class. One girl had peanut allergies, but the rest were fine. I spent about a month getting ready to teach the class, getting ideas in place, locating pots and pans, bowls and getting knives ready. I wanted to make it interesting and fun, but I also wanted to ensure that the kids had the basic understanding that kitchens can be dangerous places, full of hot things, sharp things, and slippery things.

That first class was interesting. The kids were enthusiastic and happy, so I worked hard to keep them that way. They each got a Chef’s knife and a paring knife, a cutting boards and a towel. Then we began. Cutting skills are a significant component of the cooking process. The process goes from gaining comfort in handling the tools, to working with the preparation of ingredients, to reading recipes, to cooking the dish. I decided that the first class would focus on developing cutting skills and reducing the fear of the knives. Slicing, dicing, and chopping were the tasks for the day, but I also wanted to create something they could eat. So each kid had a tomato to slice and dice, an onion, half a bell pepper, a half of a cucumber, some garlic, and some parsley and cilantro. They each made a mixture of tomato, onion, peppers, cucumber, garlic, and cilantro, stirred it up and made a salsa. I provided them some freshly made tortilla chips and they were each able to enjoy their very own salsa. I asked them to set aside some of the chopped tomato, some chopped garlic, chopped basil and parsley to make a topping for crostini. I had made some bruschetta toasts for them and they topped the toasts with the tomato, and garlic, added some Parmigiano Reggiano and had a new taste sensation.

The next class had them preparing the ingredients for pasta with a light tomato sauce, sausage, broccoli rabe and cherry tomatoes. With a lot of the Parmigiano added they really loved this dish. I showed them how to make basil pesto with olive oil, garlic, walnuts, Parmigiano and pecorino cheeses, and lots of basil. They blended it up and made a very nice pesto that we used to top linguini. The first pasta used Orecchiette and that also was new dish for them. The third class was yesterday and I had asked them what they wanted to prepare. The decision was to make chicken piccata and salmon teriyaki. So I split them up into groups making the lemon sauce, pounding the chicken, making the teriyaki sauce, and the cream cheese topping for the lemon tarts. They were all busy and got all the tasks done quickly. Then it was time to move to the stove and heat things up. They floured and sautéed the chicken dipped it in the piccata sauce and set it aside to continue to heat. Then they sautéed the salmon fillets, topped them with the teriyaki sauce, sesame seeds, and chopped green onions. The food was moved out to the dining room and the kids ate their work. Even though some didn’t want to eat the salmon, they at least tried it.  Sapore means to love flavors and that was what I wanted them to understand. They were a pretty adventurous lot. The lemon tarts went down quickly as well as some lemon sorbet I had made earlier. We talked about the experiences that they had and got some feedback. The kids were still enthusiastic and seemed to have fun, and all thanked me and said goodbye. I sat for a few minutes just to center myself and then cleaned up the kitchen, packed the car and went home. The first workshop was over. Apparently the next one is already filled and will start soon.