The Scale Says What?!? – A Journey to Better Health

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Once upon a time…so all fairy tales begin…however, this is not a fairy tale.  This is my journey to having better health, adding years to my life, increasing my self-worth and maintaining my career. In an effort to share my journey of weight loss with friends and family and people looking for insight to make take their own journey, I am going to blog about it.  I welcome your comments and input as you read my journey.  Thanks for taking it with me.

Let me take you back a few years and give you the background to bring you up-to-speed so you understand the seriousness of my journey.

I think it was 1970 or there about when I realized that not only was I the tallest girl in my class but also the heaviest.  While I maintained friendships and participated in activities, it seemed that I wasn’t quite as coordinated or pretty as other girls in my class.  I was the chunky friend who learned very quickly to take my personality and put it to work winning friends and creating relationships.

Fast forward through many,many years of diets – Jenny Craig, Nutri System, Phen-Phen pills, Physician Weight Loss Program, Weight Watchers (multiple times), fad diets, trainers, gym memberships, more fad diets, and much, much more I am sure.  At some point, I simply lost count of how many ways I had tried to lose weight.

Approximately, 10 – 15 years ago the medical journals started publishing studies that weight and genetics were possibly tied together along with a person’s culture and environment.  I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs – DUH!  I could simply look at my family and see that genetics played a part in our struggle to keep weight off.  I have always said, that if you lined up all the women in our family and not show our faces, you would quickly see that we were related just by our build – there were very few exceptions to the group.

As I think back over the last 30 years of my life, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t trying to lose weight in some fashion.  However, at some point, I accepted that my weight was my ‘cross to bear’ and ‘accepted’ that I would always be overweight.  I compensated by working hard, being funny (in my strange way) and developing skills like creating amazing relationships with friends, vendors, exhibitors, suppliers, and co-workers.

As I advanced in my career, so did the internal pain of being overweight.  Have you ever tried racing from one side of an exhibit floor to another only to have to stop multiple times to get there?  Or race up a flight of stairs only to be so winded that you couldn’t breathe?  Well, that is where I was about seven years ago when my highest weight hit about 300 or so.  It was at that point I wanted to cry every day.  I was tested and diagnosed with PCOS (poly cystic ovary syndrome) and was told that my extra weight only added to the side effects – excessive hair growth, menstrual cycles that came and went when they wanted or not at all, but the best was testing positive with testosterone at 4x the level of most women.  Now that is just want every girl wants to learn she has an issue with…not this girl.

Solution?  Put me on pills to slow hair growth, keep sugar production down (which was turning to fat) [and I wasn’t diabetic], an anti-depressant to help with anxiety caused by all of this information and worrying.  Saw an endocrinologist on a regular basis who put me on high blood pressure medications as well.  I hate taking pills so this was not an answer for me.  So I went back to trying diets again, exercising as best as I could with the weight and trying to be normal.  Results?  Lost a few pounds but not enough to get off any of the medications.

It was at that point that I started following the bariatric programs that were being developed. I read with vigor every article I could get my hands on, talked with my doctor about it and thought about having surgery from time to time.  My doctor encouraged me to considered it but also warned that it was so new that all the risks were not known.  As I trusted him, I decided to continue following it and watching as more and more positive results were being reported on people.

So that brings me to 2010 and present day….more info in my next post.

I learned how to cover up my weight. In June 2010, I was about 285#.

Who is the girl in pink? This is me with my dad and step-mom on Labor Day 2011. About 278#.

Ten Tips for Effective Trade Show Managers

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When I am asked why I am passionate about my career, I always think about what drives me to go to work every day. Here are my 10 tips that I believe are important to be an effective (and successful) Trade Show Manager (i kept it to 10 – but I have many more that I could add to the list – maybe my next 10!).

  1. Develop and cultivate relationships with the client, exhibitors and vendors. Don’t underestimate the power and importance of relationships.
  2. Create an accurate timeline and show information that can be shared with key stakeholders so that vendors can provide better service and exhibitor know what they need to do pre-, during and post-show. It’s also a great checklist and scorecard for show management.
  3. Be flexible and proactive.
  4. Designate one point of contact for the show to ensure consistent messages – and responses to questions that are asked repeatedly.
  5. Always provide top-notch customer service.
  6. Pick up the phone and have conversations with exhibitors, sponsors and vendors. Conversations can get to the “heart of the matter” much more quickly and provides an opportunity to ” touch” the relationship again.
  7. Engender and encourage trust, trust. trust. Communicate, communicate – and communicate – early and often.
  8. Leverage industry trade organizations to glean best practices; maximize the use of technology to advance the show’s objectives.
  9. Manage with “micro-managing” in other words – let the professionals and your team members do their jobs.
  10. Education – take part in continuing education for the industry – it makes you a better show manager/producer. There’s always something new to learn.

I encourage you to find your top 10 by which you can define success for your show.  They will be the guide that helps you have a successful career!  Happy producing!

What are your tips for being an effective trade show manager?

P.S. These tips were part of an article I authored for Forum Magazine, August 2008!

The Scales Say What?!?…. A Choice to Make!

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Since my last post life took a turn that was not necessarily part of my life plan – I was laid off from a job that I love.  HOWEVER, when life hands us a “bump” in the road, we have a choice to make.  We can either choose to rise above it and move forward OR we can choose to wallow in self-pity and depression.

Prior to having lost my weight, I would have went the route of self-pity, depression, “woe is me” and figured that I was doomed.  That is not to say that I didn’t feel sorry for myself, wish it hadn’t happened, said a few choice words or felt sadness – I did all that and then some!  BUT, the difference this time, for me, was that as a result of having starting the journey of being healthier and happier being well on its way for me – I was able to stay focused on what I needed to do – find a job and keep moving forward.

Just prior to the job loss, I had signed up to be part of Team HOPE, a community-based group of individuals, who were raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  In fact, they were attempting to raise $100,000 to fully fund a blood research grant to help eradicate blood cancers.  By signing on to the team, I was committing to personally raising $1,800 – scary now that I didn’t have a regular income.  It also meant taking on training for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon.  Something that I had NEVER, EVER done before.  So the choices continued…stay the course, raise the money, support my friends – or drop out and quit.  Oh I thought about the later more times than I can count but…I also had committed to myself that this was the year (2014) that I would identify an exercise that I would enjoy to help me keep the weight off.

Here is how I tackled what seemed impossible:

  • Job front:  I emailed every person I know in my network and sent them my resume along with a short snippet of what I was looking for and asked them to share opportunities with me.  I applied for jobs that didn’t make sense just to put my name out there.  I met with anyone that was recommended either by phone or over coffee.  I listened. Stayed engaged on LinkedIn.
  • Fundraising front:  When you ask people to give to a great cause, it is amazing how generous people are – I did team events, sent personal emails, posted on social media – and gave people a reason to get involved.  My uncle has CMML, a blood leukemia, and a I asked him to “borrow” his story to put a face to my fundraising efforts.  We had to meet a $1,800 minimum by April 14 – scary to say the least – but I met it and exceeded it by more than $500.  As I write this post, I am at $2,378 with one outstanding corporate donation!
  • Race training:  I made myself get out of bed every Saturday, except one, and went to training – cold weather and all.  I scheduled time to train during the week with other teammates.  On the one day that I missed team training, I trained by myself.  Found out quickly that training with the team was more fun.
  • Weight control:  To keep the weight in check and not fall back into bad habits was a challenge for me during this time. I found that it was easier to grab something on the run instead of planning meals which I allowed to happen on certain days ‘just because’ but was quick to put myself back on a protocol of eating more protein than carbs.  I used my Unjury and Body by Vi products to help me stay on track.  I put a few pounds on; however, I was moving much more and didn’t allow the scale to get out of control.

I committed to completing the half marathon with a smile on my face.  What happened was much more.  As I rounded the 12th mile and headed into the finish line all I could do is let the tears roll.  Walking 13.1 miles was and is a HUGE accomplishment for a girl who couldn’t run stairs just 27 months ago without feeling like she was going to have a heart attack.

Here are some fun pictures of the half marathon that will be forever my reminders that I simply need to stay focused and keep moving…

 

Nike Wall imageTeam ready - Race day

The Scale Says What?!?…27 Months Does Not Erase the Mental Tapes…yet!

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As one goes on a the journey of transformation and changing a lifestyle to better health there are obstacles that get in the way sometimes.  For me, one of those obstacles is what I “see” when I look in the mirror, pass a window and see my reflection or look at pictures.

Of late, here is my battle:  I have successfully lost over 135 pounds.  I have dropped 14 dress sizes.  I no longer need a cpap machine to sleep soundly at night.  I no longer take high blood pressure, anti-anxiety, high cholesterol, thyroid or pain medications – yes that is 5 – count them 5 – medications gone!  With all of these successes one would think that I would be floating on air and happy as a lark!  YET, I battle with myself as I see the person who started on this journey 30 months ago, counting pre-surgery months – taking all the medications, not sleeping through the night, not able to sit in an airplane seat without a belt extender and so many other things!  So I have been doing some thinking about why … why can’t I get rid of the mental pictures, erase the tapes – why can’t I see what others tell me that they see….

Here is my analysis of this part of the process…

  • I lived with these real images for more than 40 years – so they were my friends.  Losing this much weight is like a death – there is a process – much like death – that one has to go through.  I believe I was so wrapped in the excitement of the success that I didn’t properly grieve the loss of “my friends”.   I am now grieving them and so I have had a few moments.
  • For many years, I identified myself with my work instead of finding hobbies or other interests outside of work.  When one is fat, you bury yourself in work and work hard to be successful so no one thinks that you are lazy or not able to perform the job that you are assigned.  I am now finding new interests…in fact, I am walking in my first half marathon ever!  I am so excited and feel empowered in a way I can’t explain! And when it is over, I will find another one to focus on…who knows what I will accomplish before I turn 60 (several years from now :))
  • I am in transition in my career.  When transition happens, it causes upset to our routine.  And for me, I need a routine to keep me on track.
  • I have started eating more carb-laden foods which I wish I had not learned that I could still eat because they give me comfort. I still have not eaten rice or pasta (yes that is about 27 months without these two comfort foods).  However, I have convinced myself that good bread is not bad for you…guess what…not true.  While I need to increase my carbs due to the training, I need to find the right carbs to eat.
  • I started allowing foods that I thought I could ignore to be brought in the house again – cookies, chips, breads, unhealthy snacks.  I am not as strong as I thought and need to go back to keeping things out of the house that are too tempting.
  • And finally…it is a journey that is one day at a time!  And these few weeks of set back are giving me pause to re-focus and get back on track!  Besides, I refuse to buy larger clothes!

While I continue to work on erasing the tapes – both mental and visual – I am forever a different person than I was 27 months ago.  Today at my check up with Blue Point Surgical, I heard phrases like…’great blood work – your numbers look amazing'; ‘you look great'; ‘keep up the good work'; ‘you are in tune with what you need to do to keep on track'; ‘you are an inspiration’…so while I have had a bit of mental set back, I know that I have come a long way in two years and have no regrets of having surgery and becoming healthy, which was my #1 reason for having the surgery done.

What are your battles when it comes to making a transformation in your life?  What have you done to overcome the obstacles and declare success?  How do you deal with setbacks?

A visual reminder of how far I have gone in 27+ months…

Donna with Tjay Spencer at Starwood Academy Awards Event

Donna with Tjay Spencer at Starwood Academy Awards Event – March 2014

Who is the girl in pink?

This is where I started – Sept 2011

 

The Scale Says What?!?!…Two Years and Counting

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A journey of many miles starts with the first step.  What a journey it has been the past 18 months.  From the informational meeting with Blue Point Medical Group, to my first visit with Dr. Amir Mozzaez, surgery, recovery, hair loss, dropping 14 sizes and many inches. I have experienced anxiety, excitement and growth plus many other emotions that are related to such a journey.

As I look back while moving forward, I think about the process to get to the point of surgery. Here are some questions that I have answered for myself and am asked by people inquiring about my process and progress.

Why did it take so long for me (you) to decide?  In short, I wasn’t ready.  I kept thinking that I could lose weight with another fad diet, more exercise or not eating as much.  Prior to making the choice to go this route (and yes, it was a choice), I spent hundreds of dollars on weight loss programs, personal trainers, bigger clothes and diet food (and pills).   Choosing to have 85% of your stomach removed (reminder: I had the sleeve form of surgery done) is not a quick overnight process.  I had to wrap my head around the fact that I would only be able to eat about a cup of food a day for the rest of my life in order to be successful.  I had to grasp the fact that I wouldn’t be able to “grab and go” when on site producing a conference.  I had to make sure that I was 110% committed to a new lifestyle of taking vitamins, making sure that I got in 80 grams of protein daily and was willing to give up sweets and other junk food that I liked to “treat” myself to from time to time.  I wanted to make sure that I was willing to do this and more…exercise regularly, eat on a regular schedule, drink 64 ounces of water or non-carbonated beverages daily, be committed to working on the things that triggered me eat comfort foods, be willing to do the work….and yes, it is work.  I had to accept that my obesity was much like any other disease and that I needed to treat more than just the symptoms – I needed to treat the root causes!

How do you survive?  This one is a bit easier to answer – like anyone else – with smaller amounts of everything that I consume – less food, less drink.  As the doctors and dieticians told us in prepping us for this journey “you will become a cheap date”.  Those words ring true just about every time I go out.  A regular entree purchased out can be up to three meals for me.  And alcohol – well, that is where I really save money – usually one drink will do it.  I didn’t think I would survive without drinking (after all I am in a profession where entertainment is a central part of what I do) – but I can nurse a glass of wine for about two hours now!  Back to the question…there are days when I look at foods that I used to eat and want them.  And sometimes, I try to eat it.  However, I am founding (still) that my taste buds have changed drastically.  Those french fries just don’t have the same taste as they did before and they upset my stomach too much to indulge.  Just like any addict, I take it one day at a time.  Fortunately, I find that I am winning this time.

What is the biggest change? My Quality of Life!  I am more positive than ever now.  I find joy in getting up every day.  I am not tired or exhausted after a night’s sleep.  I don’t have to take five medications to cope.  I don’t need my cPAP machine to make sure that I am breathing while I sleep.  I have fun shopping (well, sort of as I have never been a big shopper) but now it is nice to run into a store and grab something off the rack and know it will fit without a struggle.  I still enjoy cooking and entertaining – just don’t eat all the food – and I still bake treats from time to time.  I am learning how to modify favorite recipes to make them more healthy.

What foods do you miss? If I were to say there is one thing I miss … it might be pasta.  I haven’t eaten pasta for close to 24 months now.  And I used to have it at least three times a week.  I always enjoyed a good plate of spaghetti with my homemade sauce – well maybe two plates or macaroni and cheese.  I don’t crave it but I do miss it.  It was an old friend that gave me comfort when I was stressed out or feeling down.

What is your biggest challenge? This question varies from day to day.  One day it could be resisting a scrumptious-looking treat in the office or at dinner.  Another time it could be not wanting to exercise.  Or having more to drink than eat which means low blood sugars and fainting.  And some days it is myself…old tapes playing in my head that I work to erase or remove regularly.  Learning to accept compliments from strangers and friends.

For those who are reading this blog and have been considering (or know someone who is) bariatric surgery of any kind my recommendation is simply this…find a surgeon that is part of a Center for Excellence practice, talk with them and jump in with both feet!  It will be work but it will be the best work you will ever do for yourself – and – most of all – the best present you will EVER give yourself.

Dream big.  Dream often. And live each day to the fullest…I do that every day now!

The Scale Says What?!?…12 Months Makes a Difference

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Where does the time go?  Didn’t realize I have been so remiss in posting updates until I started sharing my blog this weekend with a friend.

Thanksgiving 2012 has been a bit challenging for me.  It was a year ago that I shared with my family and friends that I was having my surgery.  I am back with them a year later a much healthier, happier person.  However, it was a difficult time for me.  While I have learned new habits, changed my food habits, tastes have changed – in part because of the surgery – and in part because they had to in order for me to be a success…the worlds that my family live in have not changed.  So I worked with what I had…added what I could…and made the best of it.

What challenges could there be?  I can hear that question loud and clear.  Carbs were the worst.  Recently I have been feeling challenged by the excess carbs that are being added to the menus in my home since my husband has retired.  And it was no different this weekend.  From freshly baked dinner rolls to more than seven pies (but I did contribute two bean pies to try to introduce a new taste to the family) … it made for difficulty in navigating the Thanksgiving buffet.  Selecting turkey over the ham loaf wasn’t hard but walking past the dinner rolls was like slicing my wrists.  I was dying to dive in and never look back.  But I didn’t.

I stood for myself and asked to have unsweetened tea made.  I did enjoy asparagus wrapped with bacon and baked.  My brother-in-law didn’t realize that he was helping me have a bit of enjoyment with his addition to the menu. Thank you Dan!  And my sister, Janell, added fresh broccoli to the menu.

Okay, enough whining.  I am keeping my eye on the prize of being healthy and it is one day (well in this case,  a weekend) out of the big picture.  When I look at pictures from last year compared to this year – I have made great strides.  Over 110# gone forever.  I am drinking my Body by Vi shakes while I am traveling to help keep me on track.  It has made a difference between caving in totally or not.

During my trip back to Ohio, I was able to catch up with some friends.  To remind myself how far I have come, I stopped in to see Lee Kelly and take a picture in the same spot where we took one last year.  This my friends, is my measure of success….

I am thankful for the success that I have had the past 11 months.  I am pleased to see that the closet is starting to fill with smaller clothes and that the fat clothes are gone.  I am having fun finding new clothes and new looks.  It is an amazing feeling to walk into a store and buy “pretty” clothes that make me feel pretty.

So for the quick comparison – I re-created a photo with my dear friend and wonderful supporter, Lee Kelly on Thanksgiving Day this year.

With Lee Kelly on Thanksgiving 2012

With Lee Kelly on Thanksgiving 2011

With Lee on Thanksgiving November 2012

With Lee on Thanksgiving November 2012

So my friends…as I approach my year anniversary of the surgery that has changed my life, I leave you with this thought.  When you want something bad enough, you can have it – simply put it out to the universe and begin living as if it is so – and it will come to pass.

If you are reading this blog and are considering one of the bariatric surgeries, I am very open to listening to your concerns as well as sharing my insights to help you make a decision that is best for you.

Watch for the annual update blog!