ORBERA Journey

Posts for tag: diet

By Mona
May 02, 2017
Category: ORBERA
Tags: ORBERA   weight loss   gastric balloon   diet  

Today marks my 2-month balloon anniversary (the 1/3 mark for removal). This has been one of the best things I have done for my own health, not because the balloon has actually done the work, but because it has forced me to be introspective and make changes I should have made years ago.  I am halfway to my weight loss goal and only about 10 lbs. away from being at a “normal” BMI range, not something that means much to me generally, but it is the metric used for purposes of the balloon eligibility so I’ll use it as one more way to measure my progress as well.

Although I have a long way to go (about 18 more lbs.)  I do feel successful already.  I truly believe that much of this can be attributed to the people I surround myself with on a daily basis.  It is certainly helpful to live with the doctor that did the procedure on me, but that really is more because it has changed his perspective as my husband.  I think this process has given him, a person who has never really struggled with weight loss, a literal insider’s view on the process!  He is invested in my success in a way that he has never been before, essentially my success or failure impacts his reputation and so he is doing everything he can to help me.  This includes changing many of his habits that have weakened my resolve in the past like the daily after dinner dessert, or the cravings for cheesesteak or burgers that can pop up at any time.  Obviously I have some responsibility here, I could always say no, but having a husband who will never acknowledge you are fat combined with one who loves eating all the same things you do makes life happy but not always the healthiest!  He has really embraced my decision to make a change and we are actually enjoying many parts of it.  If you have a partner on board, it certainly will make it easier than one who actively opposes your efforts, but it is not your only place to seek support.

Our entire office has gotten on the health bandwagon and we are in it together along with our ORBERA patients (and really any of our patients who want our help).   It is so nice to go in to work and have everyone trying to keep up their water intake, pick the healthiest option for our lunches, and sharing ideas.  I am fortunate enough to have our medical assistant, Mildred, doing this with me.  We encourage each other, make suggestions for snacks, and do our fair share of complaining about everything from missing certain foods to aches and pains from exercise.  We try to not do it too loudly in front of Dr. Din :)

I can’t undervalue the professional help I’ve gotten through our ORBERA team and Isagenix.  The nutritionist has been so helpful in helping me figure out how to make this my life in a way that I enjoy versus a temporary solution.  Our personal trainer Melvin is instrumental in getting our patients on the path to sustainable fitness.  He is definitely tough love, but I reluctantly admit he was right about working out first thing in the morning!  What a difference it has made. Isagenix is the brand I choose for nutritional supplementation, but as much as I like the products what I really like are the coaches who have so many ideas on how to use the products as well as the real support they provide clients in setting and reaching goals.  

I have assembled the most beautiful group of girlfriends (inside and out) through the years.  Almost every one of my closest friends is in fantastic shape and looks great.  What has kept them my closest friends through the years is that for each and every one of them it is the least important thing about them and not one of them has EVER made me feel like I was somehow less because I had weight to lose. I actually blame some of them for keeping me fat by always complimenting me :)  Not that it would have mattered, because as my friend Neelofar says, “weight loss is like religion, you don’t convince anyone to do it by talking about it.”

There are women out there who obsess about their own looks to the point that you can’t take it for one more minute and those who derive their value from weight and as a result they try and make you feel inferior when you aren’t meeting that mark, but for me, they don’t stay friends for long, mainly because it bores me to tears.   I mention this because I think for women this is the most damaging kind of person to be around.  It’s not helpful and it isn’t what will make you successful.  They are also the easiest to replace.  I did it years ago and have never looked back.  The bonus of having healthy, supportive friends is that once you decide to get healthier these are the ladies (and gentlemen) who know how to do it.  My friends are my best cheerleaders and role models as I decide what to eat, where to eat, how to begin exercising again, when to take it to the next level, and when to give myself a break.  They have been my biggest cheerleaders and I have learned so much from them through the years.  Obviously friends who are in a different place in their journey may not be the best to be around RIGHT NOW as you are trying to acclimate, mainly because of the temptation to overeat, drink too much, and blow off workouts, but as long as the friends you have are supporting you they are an invaluable resource (I had to say that because obviously I was that friend two months ago!) 

My incredibly healthy daughters, who are far more athletic than I ever was especially at their age have been so supportive, except for the time I substituted half the cheese in their lasagna with spinach.  Jenna has walked with me to get my steps in, passed up on things I know she wants to eat because she doesn’t want me to feel tempted, and says absurd things like if I get any smaller people won’t be scared of me anymore.  Inshira FaceTimes me daily from college and listens to boring stories about new recipes, new workouts, and miniscule changes in weight and size, always supporting me and exclaiming, “you’re doing great Mama!” even if I’m not.   It does help that they are a little older now and that I can motivate myself by thinking about repossessing clothes I’ve bought them when I get to my goal weight. 

Last but certainly not least, is all of our patients, friends, and family who keep an eye on the blog and follow us on social media and ask me how the process is going when you see me.  It keeps me honest in a way nothing else has.  I’ve always heard that publishing your goals can be helpful in weight loss but never thought much of that idea.  First of all, it seems like a set up for a much bigger failure than if you just fail alone, but also it’s kind of a self absorbed, boring topic that I could never imagine anyone cares about.  This is all probably still true, but it has really been helpful for me.  Whenever I think about quitting, I imagine explaining to all of you how I ended up gaining weight with ORBERA and it gets me back on track!

Surround yourself with likeminded people, know that we will be your in house team even if you have nobody else with you on this journey, and put yourself first because nobody else will.





By Mona
April 18, 2017
Category: ORBERA
Tags: ORBERA   weight loss   gastric balloon   diet  

I'm entering Week Seven this week and while I am happy overall with my results there are certainly things that are frustrating me as well. Just as I was starting to get into my workout rhythm I injured my foot and am in a walking boot for the next week or two.  Getting my workout rhythym is no small task for me.  I make every excuse in the book to avoid exercise, but I had finally gotten to the point where my body was craving it and I was doing it almost happily.  Additionally I had hit the dreaded plateau that anyone who has tried to lose weight knows all too well.  After losing the first 10-12 pounds pretty quickly, worse than being stuck I'm actually going down and then up again!  I know there is some normal fluctuation in weight, but that doesn't make it any easier to watch.  Mildred (our medical assistant who is taking this journey with me) has advised me to stop weighing myself daily.  I'm trying but it's not easy.  I like to see the numbers move!  In the meantime I refuse to give up the ground I've gained and am trying to walk in smaller spurts and focus on exercises that don't involve my foot (they exist!)

What is happening, slowly moving scale notwithstanding, is a change in my wardrobe.  From jeans, to tops, to the one piece of clothing that never makes me happy to wear, dresses, I am finally excited to buy clothes again.  Although I'm just about at the halfway point for my weight, I am so happy with my new clothing sizes and more importantly how everything fits.  I've dropped down from a 10-12 to a size 6 in 7 weeks.  For a person with a build as small as mine that is hardly the end game, but it's a start that I'm really happy with.  I'm even back in my european sized jeans. 

I have a long way to go though.  As of this morning I was down between 15-20 lbs. taking fluctuations into account.  That leaves me with about 20-25 lbs to go.  When I spoke to my ORBERA nutritionist yesterday, she shared two really interesting pieces of information with me.  The first was that often when you've hit a plateau it's because you aren't taking in enough calories.  She advised me to stick closer to 1200 calories than 1000 calories.  Quite honestly I'm a terrible calorie counter and so I haven't really been watching really closely, just monitoring what I eat, making sure it's often enough, and relying on a lot of repitition.  

The second thing was her response when I shared with her my concern that I will gain all the weight back once the balloon is removed. She reiterated that the balloon was just a tool, and then reminded me that the balloon is NOT losing the weight, I am.  In fact, there are people who GAIN weight with the balloon if they do not follow the protocol.  While that did scare me a little, it also made me feel a lot better to know that I have done this myself and can continue moving forward once the balloon is removed as well.

With my newfound sense of empowerment, I've decided to take accelerating my weight loss to the next level by incorporating a cleanse that I like and has worked for me in the past into my routine this month.  It's called Isagenix and we carry it in the office, but more importantly we use the products in our home.  Something like this may not be for you, but for me I want to get through this plateau before I lose interest or become discouraged.  I've already incorporated the shakes into my diet (part of the repitition) and have added some supplements that are helping with the bloating and other digestive issues that come with a change in diet.  This week I'm doing the detox cleanse as well (it's two days this week and I'm already almost finished with day one).  I'm taking advantage of the balloon keeping me less hungry to get through the cleanse.  I have invested so much into this that I need to do everything I can to maximize my results.

Pictures are coming soon, I haven't posted them simply because I don't take pictures at the glamourous events I go to like the grocery store, AAU games, and work.  I'm headed to a wedding this weekend and I just barely fit into my outfit when I bought it 6 weeks ago. I haven't tried them on since, but  I'll share the pictures with you as soon as I have them!

Thanks to all of you for your support, I love your feedback and encouragement.  



By Mona
March 28, 2017
Category: ORBERA

Last week, just as I completed my third full week with ORBERA, my younger daughter Jenna and I embarked upon a trip to Manhattan.  We love New York for many reasons, but one of our top reasons is the food.  We dream about the manti (Turkish ravioli) from ABA, we have tried to replicate the famous New York kati rolls at home, and of course no trip to New York is complete without an authentic slice of pizza from a hole in the wall pizza place. Lots of caffeine normally helps me keep up with my fellow travelers who are more nocturnal than I am, and is a must in the city that never sleeps for a girl who likes her sleep.  

I had done pretty well adjusting to solids in week three.  I did have a couple of setbacks initially, specifically eating a little more after I felt full led to throwing it all up hours later and eating something too creamy left my stomach unsettled overnight.  The setbacks were good preparation for the trip in that I got a better sense of what full feels like versus "This tastes so good, I'm going to finish it."  I also found (under direction of my doctor) that a few sips of ginger ale helps settle something heavy.  Soda is generally off limits with ORBERA so I am very cautious to not overuse that one.  Although I was nervous to travel to such a delicious city with my restrictions in place, particularly no caffeine, I was excited to try.  The name of the game is making a lifestyle change I can live with, not a six month break from my regular life that will have me rebounding once it's over.  I also wanted to make sure that my daughter would enjoy this trip fully, food and all.

Planning really is the key to success with ORBERA and that is non negotiable when traveling.  Jenna and I decided to take the train up, so we knew that our trip would be about three hours.  I had one of my go to breakfasts, greek yogurt with Cheerios before we left the house at 7 a.m. and had to plan for a snack on the train around 10 as well as something for right when we got there prior to lunch.  I opted for Triscuits and string cheese for our first snack, the usual mid morning snack.  I also brought mini whole grain cheddar rice cakes just to tide us over until lunch. I had one serving (6 mini rice cakes) prior to getting off the train. The goal was to have something healthy for me, but also something Jenna would want to eat.  The more she likes the snack, the easier it is for me to maintain my portion control goals!  I also brought lots of water.  ORBERA requires two cups of water a half hour after eating.  Public restrooms (including on the train) are an unfortunate adjustment that I had to get used to.

We arrived at Penn Station and walked to our hotel.  In fact we walked EVERYWHERE while we were in New York.  We have always enjoyed walking in New York, but always took our share of taxis.  On this trip I made a conscious decision to  stay at a central location and get my steps in by walking whenever possible.  We planned our walks and left early enough to get to where we were going.  

We started our trip the same way that I would start a trip to New York with my father when I was a teenager, getting a slice of authentic New York pizza.  I was extremely nervous about this with ORBERA, but decided to give it a try.  We walked over to Empire from our hotel and took a look at the options.  Pizza is, and has always been, my Achilles heel when it comes to food.  The Sicilian cheese pizza had just come out of the oven and looked amazing but very bread heavy.  Jenna got a slice of that as well as a slice of my favorite, plain cheese pizza (I believe I've mentioned I eat like a 12 year old).  I ordered a slice of veggie pizza, loaded with broccoli, mushrooms, and fresh tomato. I have never eaten so many vegetables on my pizza in my life.  It was amazing!  I have missed pizza so much and have also surprisingly missed fresh vegetables as I've moved through the "soft foods" phase.  I focused on including vegetables in each bite, moving excess cheese off my slice, and bypassing most of the crust.  Part of the diet and nutrition portion is cutting back on processed foods, particularly bread, rice, and pasta.  I realized that even though I picked the "healthiest" version of the pizza available, it's the sort of meal that requires a little extra movement to work off the calories and extra effort to pack in some nutrition since I'm limited in how much food I can eat.  We walked for half an hour after lunch and walked to Macy's and back (about 4 blocks away) after getting settled in our hotel.  We had planned to get manti for dinner that night.  We didn't go to our usual Turkish restaurant, we went to one walking distance from our hotel and with an appetizer sized portion of  our favorite dish.  We each ordered our own and I ordered a salad as well.  I worked on the salad first, focusing on the more nutrient rich vegetables in the mix.  Once the manti arrived, I ate about 4 pieces really trying to enjoy each piece since each bite has to be chewed 20-30 times. Chewing anything 20-30 times gives you a real awareness of what you are eating.  For me the (sad?happy?) revelation has been that pasta is really gluey.  One of my all time favoirite foods has lost it's appeal.  I passed the remainder of my portion over to Jenna who happily finished it up.  I was surprised to see neither of us had touched the bread basket.  

We saw a show on Broadway that night and believe it or not I enjoyed it thoroughly with nothing more than my bottle of water.  These are the kinds of things that concerned me, can I watch a show without concessions?!

Max Brenner's Chocolate Bar is one of our favorite brunch locations, we headed there on day two.  Jenna got her usual milkshake and mac and cheese and I got the Guilt Free omelet with whole grain toast. The portion sizes are huge so I ate probably 1/5th of the omelet and one piece of the four pieces of toast that came with it. The real benefit of the gastric balloon is the mindset shift.  I know that I don't want to feel sick so the mac and cheese does not call out to me, I know that I have limited space to eat so I want to maximize the quality of what I'm eating and eggs really hit the spot in a way that pancakes or waffles would not.  I'm slowly developing a taste for whole grain that I never had before, I think primarily because it really fills me up in a way "regular" bread does not.  

The beauty of walking in New York is that there is always something to see or do along the way.  Jenna and I headed back to our hotel (a 20 minute walk from the restaurant) and wound our way through the farmer's market and various shops.  We stopped back at our hotel for an hour or so and then walked back to Macy's.  My first stop was new walking shoes.  I found a pair I liked and as we made our way through the Junior's section we realized it was time for my next snack.  I was not prepared.  We headed over to the cafe in the store and I was panicking a little at the options.  I ended up with a couple of pieces of asparagus, and a little tomato mozzarella salad from the salad bar and a bottle of water.  Jenna had a footlong hot dog.  My mistake here beyond not being prepared, was not getting a big enough snack.  I was hungry almost immediately.  When we left the store, Jenna wanted to stop at Baked By Melissa for cupcakes.  As she got cupcakes, I went over to Pret a Manger and found all sorts of appropriate options.  I settled on a whole grain vegetable sandwich in a half size (they sell half a sandwich here!) and it was perfect.  

Our main purpose in visiting New York last week was attending the Sweet Sixteen at Madison Square Garden, so we went back to our room to prepare for that.  We decided to have a light dinner in our hotel restaurant before heading out at 6 p.m. (I try and finish eating no later than 7 regardless of how long I'm awake) and walk over.  Keep in mind that part of the ORBERA  nutrition plan is a serious limiting of caffeine intake.  Up to this point I managed to do well on drinking nothing more than water.  Although we ended up spending over six hours at Madison Square Garden (we were lucky enough to catch the Wisconsin vs. Florida game that went into overtime until 1 a.m.) and walking back to our hotel after the game, I stuck to water and felt fine.

The next morning we were meeting my brother in law for breakfast and overslept.  We ran out of our hotel at 9 a.m. to meet him at a nearby restaurant.  Apparently you don't have to order the huge breakfast portions on the menu.  I ordered a poached egg and whole grain toast from the side dish menu and treated myself to a cup of black tea with milk and sugar the way I like it.  I ate a little of Jenna's rejected fruit bowl to get some produce in and felt full but good.   We stopped at Pret a Manger again before heading to Penn Station and picked up an egg salad and arugula sandwich to share on the ride back to D.C. as well as a packet of almonds.

We had one of our best trips to New York, I ate absolutely everything I wanted although what that is has changed quite a bit since my last trip. I lost 2.5 lbs between leaving on Thursday and checking on Sunday.  It is perhaps the only time I have ever lost weight after a vacation and I did it without sacrificing a good time.  

Wednesday March 29th marks the completion of week four for me.  I'm looking forward to seeing what comes next.



My older daughter is home from college for two weeks and one of my biggest concerns about having the procedure this close to her coming home was not being able to enjoy special meals with her.  I really agonized over not making lasagna or  going out to eat with her before she got here.  If you haven't guessed, much of what we do is food centered.  The first week she was home was also my first week with the balloon so we certainly were a little limited.  What I should have realized, but didn't is that my family is entirely capable of cooking what they feel like eating and are perfectly happy to eat whatever they are served.  The next thing I realized is that ORBERA really is a lot more flexible than  I thought.  It's a mindset change more than anything and my family has been very supportive of that. Once I made that mindset change, things became a lot easier.

This week I transitioned to more solid foods.  Although some people require pureed foods for longer than others, adjusting to the balloon really is different for different people.  I couldn't stand the thought of pureeing food before eating it, so I've stuck to softer foods that I can just chew a lot before swallowing for the most part.  I've tried chicken salad and egg salad sandwiches, meat sauce on a baked potato, lots of cottage cheese. I've done well with most things, spicy foods have been tough though.  I'm not a fan of spicy so luckily I won't feel too bad avoiding it.

We had a snow day yesterday and for my family that means EATING.  I made the usual preparations including a Morroccan chicken stew with couscous, modified to be healthier and ORBERA compliant.  The entire family loved it (my college girl even said it was one of her all time favorites!) I also got plenty of the usual junk food.  Here's where the mindfulness comes in.  I have made a decision to make a change to my dietary habits.  My family can still enjoy the foods that I am TEMPORARILY avoiding.  This actually gives me a lot of pleasure because I still get to provide them with special treats and I'm not particularly tempted by any of it especially if I eat before I present it to them.  Surprisingly, the rest of my family has started having sympathetic balloon symptoms as well!  Smaller meals, more water, and healthier choices for everyone. 

I have tried to stick to protein shakes or a yogurt drink (Oikos is my favorite) at night as it definitely does go down more smoothly than solid foods. Drinking 50-64 ounces or more of water throughout the day helps as well.  I also had my first consultation with the ORBERA Coach nutritionist. I've never met with a nutritionist before and am approaching it with an open mind.  Obviously what I've been doing hasn't worked so I'm willing to try it their way.  The biggest take away for me was that while I'm modifying my eating habits and portion sizes, nothing is truly off limits to me forever.  That certainly makes committing to it now a lot easier. 

As always, reach out to me if you have questions, I'm happy to answer them if I can.  I'm down 8 lbs this week and Mildred, our medical assistant is down 16! We are both really happy about our results but know we have a long way to go.  Thanks for taking this journey with us.

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