ORBERA Journey

Posts for category: Weight loss

By Mona
October 19, 2017
Category: Weight loss
Tags: ORBERA   gastric balloon  

We all have our own reasons for losing weight but ultimately it boils down to health and/or vanity.  I do believe these two can and should coexist, but I also know it is really hard to resist the temptation to just eat less or do drastic cleanses if it means losing weight faster.  One of the biggest lessons I've learned not just through ORBERA but through my post-baby years of trying to lose weight (that's going on 20 years now folks!), is that not eating appropriately actually slows down the metabolism and makes losing weight harder.  Forgetting to eat, skipping meals, putting the wrong kind of fuel in the tank all take their toll.  I have lost a significant amount of weight in the last 7 months and I know that I am healthier, but as I continue to  lose weight the emphasis is shifting from weight loss to increased health.  To that end I visited the office of Rebecca Bitzer, RD a dietician our office works with to have some testing done.  I had both my resting metabolism and nutrient deficiency tested. You can view more information about these tests here:  https://rbitzer.com/services/testing/  My goals for the next six months include improving my metabolism and reducing any vitamin deficiencies and in order to do that I wanted to have a baseline for both. Why make this any harder for myself than it has to be?  I also monitor my body fat versus just weight loss.  It's something that Kelsey in our office does for our ORBERA patients to give them another measure of improvement, and one that I think is far more valuable than a number on the scale.

During the balloon period, especially in the beginning, I was really limited in what I could digest.  As soon as I moved to a full liquid diet I incorporated Isagenix shakes into my routine. I've tried a lot of meal replacement shakes and these are hands down my favorite.  They aren't for everyone, but for me they were a life saver.  I have a shake after my workout most mornings and it keeps me going until my next snack or mini meal.  Even now when I can really eat anything, my preference is to have my shake first and start my day off right.  I've also added the Isagenix multivitamin into my routine.  I have been vitamin deficient in many areas through the years but haven't focused on remedying the situation.  These are a little complicated as they come in a.m. and p.m. packs and the have a daunting number of vitamins in each pack, but after doing it for a week I got the hang of it. I will say they also give me an extra activity that keeps me from eating and forces me to drink a LOT of water, so that's helpful.  I'm looking forward to seeing how this impacts my overall nutrition but also how it impacts my old problems like dry eyes and exhaustion that I've been told a multivitamin would help with.  Isagenix makes another product I love that would be especially helpful early in the balloon phase, it's called "Greens".  These are described on the Isagenix website as:

"Isagenix Greens features nutrition from over 30 vegetables, herbs, and botanicals, such as ginkgo biloba leaf, green tea extract, and grape seed extract, to promote overall health."  I blend mine with orange juice and drink it at bed time.  My younger daughter, Jenna, who gives me a run for my money in picky eating, loves "Green juice" and drinks it between field hockey and basketball practices in the fall. Again, this may not be for everyone, but for our family it is a great way to supplement our vegetable intake.  

I have found that the habits I created over the last six months have transferred well to my post-balloon phase.  Believe it or not, the misery of the first few weeks where you are having trouble digesting and not being able to keep down things you don't chew completely really is worth it if your body adjusts to your new normal.  You wll detox from things that you avoided initially because you had to.  I haven't had a diet coke in 7 months and no longer even want one.  You will be so much more mindful of what you eat. Focusing on health versus weight loss also gives you an additional boost in motivation.  You really consider each thing you put into your body and enjoy the choices you make when they aren't the healthiest far more than you would if you were eating mindlessly.  

My next project is going to be meal planning.  I've ordered little portion control containers and have tried to develop a rotation of healthy recipes.  I'm not much of a meal planner so I'm nervous about how that's going to go, but luckily I have a high tolerance for eating the same thing repeatedly as long as I love it.  The key is to stop repeating lasagna and beef stroganoff and figure out healthier go-to meals. 

If you remember, one of my biggest obstacles to weight loss motivation is my exceptionally positive body  image.  When I saw a picture of myself I was always horrified by how different I looked from when I looked in my mirror! While  I'm really excited about  my increased flexibility and strength, hopefully reducing my Synthroid dose, and feeling more energetic, it feels pretty good to look the same way in a mirror as I look in pictures for the first time in a long time.  

Wishing you all great health and success in your journeys.

By Mona
October 03, 2017
Category: Weight loss
Tags: ORBERA   weight loss   gastric balloon  

The first week without my balloon has had a lot of ups and downs, but has given me a lot of clarity as to what the balloon has done for me and what I did for myself.

I started eating normally the day of the procedure and realized at 3 a.m. the next day that that was a huge mistake!  I went back to my post balloon insertion liquid diet for the next day and proceeded with caution for a day or two after.  That really helped me reset a bit.  Most importantly I met with my ORBERA coach, Coach Heather, who I had been studiously avoiding for the last couple of months since my weight had plateaued.  I decided that if I really want help losing more weight and keeping off the weight I have already lost I needed to come completely clean to Coach Heather.  That can be really embarrassing, especially when you are FaceTiming.  I think generally we like to talk about our "wins".  Our challenges can be a downer and not talking about them often means not thinking about them.  So this time instead of telling Coach Heather about the new spin class I love or my plan to run a 5K (all true) I decided to tell her about what wasn't working.  I confessed my inability to say no to pizza and pasta.  When she advised me to ask the waiter to not bring bread to the table when I go out to eat I told her how sad the thought of passing up bread made me.  There are literally restaurants I go to just for the bread (I'm looking at you Coastal Flats!)  She paused for a moment and spoke to me a bit about discipline.  I know that having discipline is really important for anyone trying to lose weight (or achieve any goal) but it is also really hard to do if you don't have it.  As we talked more about what I mean when I say that I have no control when it comes to pizza and pasta Coach Heather asked me how much of these things I eat when I do eat them.  As I told her about my portions I realized that in fact I do have discipline or rather the ability to acknowledge that I am full after a slice of pizza or a few bites of pasta.  As simple as this seems, it is information about myself that I did not have prior to this procedure.  I also realized that many of the things I implemented because of ORBERA have just become habits.  Coach Heather also suggested that I pick one meal a week where I don't limit myself if eliminating cheese, bread, pasta, and pizza from my diet makes me so panicked that I throw out all my discipline.  I agreed to that with the understanding that if I don't stick to it, I go cold turkey and eliminate all of these things to break the habit.  

Coach Heather then asked me about my exercise regimen.  I have been going to a spin class with my friend Maureen once a week  OR going for a walk/run once a week.  I was very honest with Coach Heather and shared with her that after a good workout I get busy with other things and don't prioritize another one and before I know it a week has passed.  She looked at me for a moment and then just said, "exercise four times a week."  That's it.  She promised me that if I do these two things she asked me to do I would lose 5 lbs. by our next phone call.  She also felt confident that I will reach my goal weight BEFORE THANKSGIVING if I keep following through.  I find that almost impossible to believe.  My goal is a weight I have not been since law school.  I will say that I have been following Coach Heather's advice this week, I cut out dairy(which I have a sensitivity to but eat anyway) almost completely, I had my full cheat meal on Saturday night complete with chocolate cake, and I alternate running/walking with spin class twice a week.  I made an effort to walk rather than wait between my daughter's basketball games on Saturday knowing that my cheat meal was coming.  Early Sunday morning I ended up in the ER with an allergic reaction.  It ended up being to a laundry additive, but it is the kind of thing that has historically sidelined me for weeks.  I'm on medications, I'm not sleeping well at night, wearing exercise clothes itches etc. etc.  However, I know that I can go one of two ways here.  I can gain all the weight I've worked to lose back (I've done it before) or I can keep moving.  I did take Sunday off, but on Monday morning I completed my run and this morning went to my amazing spin class complete with a Tom Petty tribute.  I felt pretty good already, but when I stepped on the scale one week after my balloon removal, I was in for a surprise.  I weighed in at 132 this morning.  That's 35 lbs. less than my starting weight.  I don't quite believe it since I look the same, but surely it could be losing the weight of the balloon combined with some release of water weight.  Whatever the case, I'll take it and use it to motivate me to keep moving both mentally and literally.  

One of the things that keeps me motivated is having things to look forward to.  We are sponsoring a team for the "Scope It Out" colon cancer awareness 5K walk/run in March, the exact date is yet to be determined.  I plan to run it.  I have never run in any situation before so for me it is quite a challenge.  I've started by preparing by downloading a really simple app, Couch to 5K.  My sister is joining me in training with the app as is our office manager Tia and we'd love to have anyone who feels they need/want the support to join us as well.  As for the 5K, the more the merrier.  We are planning a lot of great things around the event and would like to see as many of our patients, colleagues, friends and family come out and join our team. If you are interested send me an email at [email protected] and I'll put you on our update list so we can hit the ground running when the date is released!


We had the best weekend with our older daughter home from college, a family wedding we had all been looking forward to and an annual celebratory dinner with our closest friends (luckily we have something to celebrate every year!)  It was also one of the toughest in terms of staying the course.  The problem wasn't the weekend, but the fallout for the following week.

I had planned the weekend pretty carefully and it all went well. What really pushed me through was fitting into a couple of outfits this weekend. One was a custom fitted blouse I wore 15 years ago,  one outfit  that just fit when I tried it on 2 months ago but was actually loose at this point (no Spanx required!), and a pair of pants I bought in Vegas, loved and purchased tight with the plan that "someday" they would be comfortable.  I couldn't fit into them for years but they remained loose after a full dinner at Bourbon Steak, dessert and all.

I bought all kinds of amazing treats for my older daughter when she came home  last weekend, far too much for her to eat over one busy weekend, so guess where they are? Yup, sitting in my refrigerator and pantry waiting for a willing taker.  Additionally, although I planned carefully and moderated my intake, I opened myself up to some things I haven't eaten in weeks.  I had steak for dinner back to back on Saturday and Sunday night (with potatoes of course), and had a couple of bites of dessert both nights. Absolutely fine, I know that I won't sustain weight loss efforts if if I completely cut out everything I like, but I definitely get how this is like any addiction.  On Monday morning I woke up looking for the little cheese crackers I had bought for Inshira.  Tuesday I had some fries with lunch (good news, the balloon can tolerate crappy, greasy food now!) and Wednesday I had something called Krispy Krunchy Chicken purchased from a gas station while waiting out a stressful situation with a friend.   I didn't have much of anything but enough of everything to make me feel like I need to pull myself together  ASAP.

There is some good news here as well.  After my plateau and ankle injury last week, I did start my Isagenix cleanse.  I dropped about 3-8 lbs depending on the time of day, but even at my worst weigh in (late night after dinner) I still haven't gotten back to the height of my plateau weight.  I also started working out again.  I'm doing PiYo, a pilates-yoga combo low impact workout from Beach Body that is pretty great for someone just getting back into the game.  The stretching actually is helping my foot heal as well (not just my opinion, my podiatrist agreed this morning).  I'm cleared to "power walk" or get on the elliptical as well as continue PiYo, so I will keep doing it, hoping it will help me get a firmer grip on my discipline. 

One of the biggest motivators for me is the people around me.  When one of you tells me you are following the blog or have taken steps to get healthy yourself, I know getting through this is bigger than just denying myself free reign to eat or be sedentary.  More on that next week, but for now wish me luck, this is where I usually lose interest and slide back.  I'm at the halfway point and would really like to see this through.

By Mona
April 10, 2017
Category: Weight loss
Tags: ORBERA   gastric balloon   exercise  

I've completed 4 weeks, and I'm feeling pretty good.  There are the external rewards like fitting into clothes that have been sitting hopefully in my closet for years and there are the healthy rewards like sleeping better, but like anything once you stop working, the program stops working.  Now that I can digest just about anything, a lot more of what I'm eating and when is up to me.  This means that I'm not always making the healthiest choices and am able to consume a few more calories than I was able to last week.  While I am still trying to be mindful, and am generally sticking to the program, it also means I'm not losing as much weight as I did initially.  In fact, I actually saw a slight upward tick in my weight this week.  

While I have been advised by our team not to panic, this is a normal part of the process (my body fat percentage has actually continued to drop steadily), it's hard not to be annoyed when weight loss is your goal.  I decided that in order to replicate my post NYC results, I needed to get moving more regularly. Between my house, my car and my office I have literally been constantly sitting since getting back to Maryland. I have gotten up a few days this week and gotten on the treadmill for 20-30 minutes and walked at a comfortable pace, but it hasn't made much of an impact (what a surprise) I'm hardly squeaking out a mile.  I decided I needed to try something different that works with my lifestyle.

For about nine months out of the year, my lifestyle includes regular basketball practice.  Not for me of course, I just sit in the car and work or come home and get dinner ready, but for my daughter.  Right across the street from where my daughter practices I've noticed what looks like some sort of fitness studio, Solidcore.  I sat at my computer, looked it up, and before I could changed my mind enrolled in a class that coincided with basketball practice.  I did this an hour prior to the class so I wouldn't have time to back out, changed, dropped my daughter off, and headed to class.

Unlike me, perhaps you've heard of Solidcore?   Basically  Solidcore is NOT a beginner class, you should be able to hold a plank for 60 seconds before attempting it, and it is meant to push you to your mental and physical limits.  I think it also helps if you have a somewhat developed core before you begin!  The instructor was amazing but unforgiving, she really pushed me to do the full version of every move (I of course clung to the handle bars for support as needed anyway), and the regulars there were so kind and supportive I actually realized what a loser I must have looked like that these notoriously aloof Bethesda ladies each felt the need to come over and tell me how great I did.  I did not "do great" I promise you, I was humbled in a big way, but I appreciated the attempt.

This is not meant to discourage you from trying something new, in fact I'm going to try something new every week (I'd love suggestions if you have some).  I got through the entire 50 minutes.  I feel sore, but also really good about accomplishing something.  I have always been able to jump into a class at the gym and pick it up pretty quickly, so not being good at this was hard.  I also remind myself that I have not seen the inside of a gym in five years. I also needed to be honest about my "workouts" at home.  I definitely am not pushing myself enough, now I know that I can handle it.  I will be back at Solidcore, but I will go back when I'm strong enough to do it right.  See you there!

March 06, 2017
Category: Weight loss
Tags: ORBERA   gastric balloon  

It hasn't been a full week yet (2 days to go) but I have so much to share with you that I couldn't wait! 

The one piece of advice I have for anyone starting this journey, is be prepared.  That includes having options for nutrition and hydration at home, making sure you give your body enough time to adjust, and having your home team in place to help you out.  Like most good candidates for ORBERA, I'm fairly healthy. I have never had to juggle this many medications at once (don't worry, it's short term!) but  I was happy to do it to avoid  any nausea or vomiting (these are the most frequently reported symptoms).  Thankfully it worked.  What surprised me is that I felt  really weak initially.  It was so helpful to have a friend come over (thanks Anika!) and make a list of what medications I was supposed to take and when and make notes of how I was feeling and what alleviated my discomfort.  When we realized that standing and moving helped me tolerate drinking we went for a short walk.  I also spent a lot of time sleeping the first couple of days.

I also hadn't really planned for what my family was going to eat.  Luckily my friend Neelofar was on it and brought enough food for the rest of the week along with an array of drinks that were allowed on my inital clear liquid diet (first 48 hours).  The one that worked the best for me was the Honest Tea Orange Mango Flavored Herbal Tea.  It goes down smoothly (water was surprisingly hard to tolerate) and I felt good about the ingredients.  This is a quest for improved health after all, what goes into my body matters. 

I was driving by the next afternoon, but again felt really tired.  Once 48 hours passed and I could move beyond clear liquids things really improved.  I couldn't wait for that first protein shake!  My favorite is Isagenix Chocolate.  I have one for breakfast most days.  With ORBERA in place I really couldn't have more than a quarter of my usual shake.  It did, however, really help give me a boost of energy to be getting some nutrients in.  I've alternated that with an Oikos Greek Yogurt strawberry smoothie (the little bottles).  Initially  I could only drink about half. Perhaps the most helpful "full liquid" was a thin lentil soup (daal) that my mother in law made for me.  It tasted like real food, is rich in protein, and went down really well.  

As a person who hasn't really monitored food intake or been terribly careful about food choices the hardest part has been cravings.  I know that I'm not hungry but I have a running list of what I would like to eat.  Ledo's pizza (original College Park style), dinner rolls from Bourbon Steak, Burger 7, the spaghetti Neelofar made,  Rosa Mexicana, and the list goes on.  It has been incredible insight into why I make the choices I do and the no going back nature of the balloon has forced me to avoid "cheating". I realize that I always give myself a pass for special events, when I'm really hungry, when I'm really stressed out and countless other situations. Knowing that I will literally be sick if I eat something not on the list before my body is ready for it makes self control a no brainer.

The biggest motivator? I've already lost 5.6 lbs.  The instant gratification of the weight loss is really pretty great.  I know it will probably slow down as I acclimate to regular food, so ramping up my physical activity is my next goal.  I woke up this morning ready to go.  I was able to drink the entire yogurt smoothie (7 ounces) and start my prescribed workout, basically a 20 minute walk on the treadmill and best of all drink water normally. I'm back at work and looking forward to moving to the next stage.


By Mona
February 13, 2017
Category: Weight loss
Tags: ORBERA   goals   gastric balloon  

Whether it's the "freshman fifteen", a little baby weight that never quite comes off, or weight gain due to hormonal changes as we get older, unless something is done to actively push back, weight gain is like a train that just keeps gaining speed.  That's how a friend described it to me several years ago when I first decided to try and lose a little weight.  I was successful that time around but about five years ago I completely lost control of my health. I went back to work full time, my father passed away unexpectedly, I had a series of health issues that culminated in a hysterectomy, and I turned 40, which for a person with hypothyroidism makes weight loss all the more difficult. Perhaps most importantly I put my weight gain and general health on the back burner and really lost any motivation to prioritize what I considered the least important issue in my life.  At 5"1 (and a half!) and 163 lbs I can honestly say I now weigh more than I did on the last day of each of my two pregnancies. More importantly, my cholesterol levels are rising, my normally low blood pressure is creeping up, and I am less healthy than I have ever been. The picture above is from this winter in Miami.  I don't love it but believe me it's not the worst one I have! I wanted to share it with you as we get started.

ORBERA came across my desk as Dr. Din's practice administrator.  It is part of my job to evaluate any business proposals or opportunites that come through our office.  Dr. Din rejects the vast majority of these.  With ORBERA he was cautiously optimistic  as he reviewed the literature and the intragastric balloons on the market.  After speaking to several peers who work in the field, reading all the studies available to him, and undergoing training in this procedure, Dr. Din is really excited to offer this weight loss system to his patients.  I insisted that I wanted to be the first person to get this done in our office.  The hardest part is going to be the commitment that all patients who sign on for the procedure and the 12 months of support agree to.  As Dr. Din's wife I  have historically also been his worst patient. This year I am going to trust the process, listen to our team and regain control of my health.  This makes me the ideal first candidate because if I can follow through on this, anyone can!  

I had a pre-procedure EGD and colonoscopy last week to make sure I don't have any pre existing conditions that would prevent me from being a good candidate for the procedure.  Most patients will have a regular GI exam in the office and an EGD immediately prior to the placement of the balloon.  I had mine last week because of course being a non compliant patient (in the past!) I was about 5 years overdue for my colonoscopy and EGD.  Other than a cold I've picked up over the weekend, everything was fine and if the cold clears up I am scheduled to have my ORBERA procedure on Wednesday February 22nd.  

Last night I met with Melvin, our fantastic fitness consultant.  You'll be hearing a lot more about Melvin.  He is an essential member of our team as ORBERA is just a tool for weight loss.  The real results come because of the changes you are making.  Melvin met with me and laid out my fitness plan.  It's really basic because there is very little I have done in terms of fitness in the last few years.  Each person who joins our team gets to meet with Melvin and develop their own plan for how they will be successful regardless of their current level of fitness.

On my agenda for this week is getting signed up for ORBERA coach, an app that walks me through the nutritional component of the program, lets me track my progess so the office can see what I've done, and is the portal through which I have one on one consultations with my nutritionist at my convenience.  I'll let you know how I like it once I'm up and running.  On Wednesday I have my physical and preparation meeting with the team at the office.  At this time I get instructions from  Dr. Din regarding preparing for the procedure as well as my prescriptions so I can get them filled and have them available for when  I get home.  I will also meet with our physician's assistant, Kelsey, who has worked hard to prepare information for our ORBERA patients so they know what to expect going into the program.  I will pick up my grocery list from Kelsey, so again once I get home from the procedure next week I'll have everything I need to follow the program.

I'm looking forward to sharing this journey to better health with each of you.  If you have any questions, you can email me directly at [email protected] and I'll do my best to answer them.  In about two weeks another member of our team will be joining me on the ORBERA journey.  She will be available to answer questions as well.  We are doing this as a team and are happy to have you join us as well if you are ready.



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