It’s no huge secret that I’ve been pretty quiet in the weight loss surgery world. Hell, I’ve been pretty quiet pretty much everywhere for over a year now. I’ve had a few people send me messages asking about me, asking me to blog again, wondering what’s going on. And I’ve appreciated it. But I’ve needed some time to ponder a number of things going on in my life and in our community as a whole, and blogging simply hasn’t been a priority in the process of evaluating the things in my life.
And really, we all go through these cycles of life.. we just handle them differently. Trying to find a healthy balance of work, family, personal time can be difficult at the best of times and downright impossible at the worst. Some just handle it better than others. Throw in a rerouted digestive system that requires a bit of special care and an itch for physical exercise and things can get downright complicated schedule-wise. Adding in swimming lessons and soccer only increases the fun.
This past weekend was Obesity Help’s only land-based conference this year, and it was held in one of my favorite cities — Atlanta. Atlanta is a special place for me because one of my very close friends lives there and I always enjoy spending time with her entire family. There’s something heart-warming about Ruby-the-St. Bernard snuggles and my apparent dog whisperer abilities with Daisy, the new pup, while I try to explain the geography in a Swedish post card to one of the kids as I’m mobbed shortly inside the door. Also, they know of and indulge my pumpkin obsession with coffee, pancakes, and bread.. It’s almost like a second family in the familiarity, and I really enjoy visiting. I’m looking forward to December when I go again.
Atlanta was also the first OH conference I went to three years ago, and it was where I first decided to start blogging. So it has some deeper personal meaning for me in that regard as well.
This was the first conference since that first time that I went as myself, coincidentally, rather than as a part of a larger group. I was “just Andrea” for this conference, rather than Andrea-of-the-BBGC. When I’ve gone to other conferences, I’ve been an adjunct of something else.. and while some may have seen me as an individual, I never really saw myself as that. This time was quite the opposite. While I went with Michelle, we were not joined at the hip, and we certainly did our own things.
And because I was just Andrea, I got to see things and speak to people I wouldn’t have before.
Previously, I’d been going to events for more of a social aspect rather than an educational one. And the more I think about that now, the more I really hate how that became the focus for me. While the events should have a social aspect to them, I don’t feel they should be entirely social in nature. These events bring together some of the top names in our field and we have an excellent opportunity to learn from these experts.. and I threw away several of those opportunities. Yes, many of the discussions were the same from event to event, and yes this can get boring to see time after time; but that does not mean all of the sessions were repeated. There were differences at each venue from local doctors and experts, plus different question and answer panels at each event that could have been taken advantage of.. but were not.
And for treating these events as social occasions, I didn’t get to talk to many people outside a certain group. This time, I got to talk to people I wouldn’t have normally.. and it was a nice change of pace. A few people I spoke to would have never come up to me previously and amazingly, we had quite a bit more in common than previously thought. Others I spoke to were ones that sat at my tables with me during the speaking engagements and it was enlightening to hear new stories of triumph over morbid obesity. Some of the stories from this weekend were absolutely amazing.. such as one lady losing 390 (yes, I’m absolutely not kidding on that) pounds. Can you believe it? What an inspiration that is. Another lady was over a decade out and living her life successfully. Another inspiration right there. I want to be her when I grow up.
Not only did I get to talk to new people, I went to some of the sessions for the first time in a long while.
One of the topics covered was alcohol after weight loss surgery.. and it is a topic that needs to be covered often. As it was brought up by Connie Stapleton, PhD., there is a large amount of alcohol use at WLS-centered events.. and it honestly seems to be getting worse. Now, as someone who has partaken of alcohol at events in times past, and perhaps will again, I don’t want it said that I’m against all alcohol use at all. I will have an occasional drink at home or out. Although, I have to say that it is getting to be a whole lot less frequent as it seems to create a much worse headache, regardless of the amount, the next morning.. and I have enough headaches as it is so just not worth it. I’m not up on some moral high ground here. But I have seen some worrisome behaviors in some post-ops through the years, and it’s about time we start to address this in our community because someone needs to. As the mainstream medical society begins to take more notice of alcoholism post-WLS with studies such as the one published in JAMA this past June and presented at ASMBS, we will only learn more about how alcohol really affects our strange anatomies.
Of course, as pointed out on my facebook wall, many of the people who could have benefited from this discussion were likely to have still been in bed as it was the first topic of the day. See the definition of irony.
Another session I got some great info from was a discussion from Jeremy Gentles, a doctoral student in sport physiology. Jeremy is a great guy that I’ve had the pleasure of working with while he worked with OH, but never with for sports stuff. The guy knows his stuff and has great info for those of us who are doing exercise stuff (which, hey, should be all of us) post-op. He knew how some of the conventional wisdom doesn’t apply to those with rerouted guts, such as the need to refuel during workouts whereas normies don’t necessarily need to.. a point my husband simply cannot understand. And while many don’t necessarily want to discuss exercise, many realize it’s the way to maintain a semblance of health after the honeymoon period is over.. and for some of us it’s a great form of stress relief. I first got into running when I was having trouble with undiagnosed gut pain.. it was a way for me to get rid of some stress. And even though I wouldn’t consider myself a runner, I still think about going out on a run when I’m feeling more than my usual amount of stress or anxiety. (I’m still training for the Disney Wine and Dine half in November… so we’ll see if I can get that shiny medal!)
I’ve also got a bag of stuff to look at for reviews, some studying to do for supplement advice, and more information to absorb.. all things you know I love to do. And while I’m still trying to find a balance in life, I’ve got to find a way to get back into the WLS world because it is a group that means a great deal to me. And let’s face it – I enjoy the research and studies way more than I should.
There is another convention this year held in Dallas; this one will be held by the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) and I can tell you that if I had a way to get there, I’d be there in a heartbeat. Talk about the educational opportunities available! If you have the chance to go, please do (and take lots of notes for me).