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- Gift Guide For Long Term Hospital Stays & Home Recoveries
I don't know about you but I can spend hours listening and watching peoples gift guides on TikTok! Between the upcoming holidays and spending 24 days in the hospital undergoing a heart transplant, I thought a little gift-guide for a loved one who is facing a health crisis for the long haul would be very fitting for me to share. Here is a list of items that have helped me, made me smile and been super wonderful to receive during this part of my story. I hope you find some inspiration to love on your loved one during this time - because it takes a village to walk through any sort of moment like this. Comfy socks (with bonus points if they are non-slip)! A friend gifted me these slipper socks from Nordstrom Rack and they are my most favorite. They are warm and comfortable, and don't cause any uncomfortableness around the shins. I sleep in them and basically wear them everyday. If your friend has a long road in the hospital - wearing a gown every day can get old and very unfashionable. When my team let me wear my own PJs I felt SO much more human. The best bet is finding PJs that have a button up top so telemetry equipment and IVs can easily be accessed. The Peregrine Kidswear of course has adorable kids PJs but they also have adult sizes that are so comfortable! I lived a in a few pairs of these and it made all the difference. I brought my own cozy blanket with me from home. I also brought my own pillow - absolute baller move and will make the patient so much more comfortable! The blanket I brought was from Target and it was so cozy and warm. Pro tip: make sure to only go with a twin size as the hospital bed is that size and no one wants anything hitting the floor of the hospital. It is a basic rule that your skin will dry out at the hospital. My feet were so dry and cracked when I could finally take a look at them, I couldn't wait to give them some tlc. I had brought bum bum lotion with me but I knew I loved the scent. Some people are sensitive to smells, so you may want to stick with something a bit more neutral that will moisturize like Aquaphor. I kept up with my skin care routine everyday too. It felt like self care and gave me some sense of normal life and routine. My personal favorite brand is Drunk Elephant. This is something that I didn't use until I was home, but I ordered a bunch of stickers from Color Oasis Hawaii and I stuck them on my medicine box, my notebook of health information, my laptop and honestly any where I could for a spot of brightness and inspiration. Friends gifted me all types of things to do. Needlepoint, coloring books, puzzles and word finds. Word finds ended up being my favorite. It was an easy thing to stop scrolling and just take a second to breathe and disconnect. Pair it with a few highlighters and you have yourself a fun little gift that will surly be a favorite! In the ICU I was not allowed to take a shower. So for 24 days I lived on dry shampoo. I used a few different brands and honestly you probably have your own favorite but it was a lifesaver. (And so was that shower I was able to take when I finally got home)! I am always cold so any type of zip up hoodie sweatshirt or comfy cozy cardigan is another great gift. I personally love these oversized scuba zip ups from Lulu Lemon. Since it is winter now, to help with the chill, I've been on the hunt for a warm hat and warm gloves. I love this hat from Lulu Lemon; bright colors make me happy in the midst of everything. I also found these gloves at J Crew to keep my hands warm. Slippers! You can't go wrong! These ones from Ugg have been my go-to favorites for years! I brought them with me to the hospital because bending over to put on sneakers was absolutely not an option and hospital socks aren't comfy. Gift cards for the family's favorite grocery store. Food and meals can be tricky. There are limitations with diet restrictions, foods that aren't allowed post-surgery, foods that may have interactions with medications, the list goes on. This kind wish can be shared in the 'better-safe-than-sorry' route, and you can get a gift card to a grocery store. It will go a long way and feed the family, and be so appreciated! I love this book "It's a beautiful day in the Neighborhood" that my friend gifted me. I mean who doesn't love Mr Rogers?!? It allows me to write snippets about how I feel with out feeling like too much of a lift. A personalized Yeti with a saying of encouragement for whatever your friend is facing is great. I love Yeti's and use it to keep my water in and protein shakes. Cortni gifted me three, one that says 'Not Broken,' one that has a heart and says 'Warrior,' and one that says 'Healing Isn't Linear'. I use them every day and it reminds me to keep going. A friend gifted me a years subscription to the app headspace and it has been a wonderful addition to my daily routine. Download the app Marco Polo and connect with your friend that way. These days visitors in the hospital are usually pretty limited and depending on the situation the patient may have to be very careful who they are around when they get home. Marco Polo it is private video message conversations you can have with your friend. I found it so helpful and still find it helpful to feel less alone in all of this medical stuff. And best of all, it's free! One line a day for Five Years Journal. This is an easy way to write just where you are without the word-vomit of pages and pages. I've always loved these journals and know it would be a great gift! I love this bag that I've had for years. It says " Have Some Fun Today " - I use it for my notebook and meds every time I have to go to a doctors appointment or back for a biopsy at the hospital. It reminds me to look at things like "I get to" rather than "I have to". Healing is all about the mental space one is in so let's have some fun today shall we? No matter what! I love printing my iPhone photos with Fujifilm Instax printers. Your loved one can use it to decorate their hospital room or their space when they get home. It is such a fun little gift and make sure you gift it with film as well! I love candles! Like so much. And my most favorite brand is Nest. Their scents never disappoint and always make my house smell amazing. If your friend is ok with candles and scents then this is the one to go after for sure! This is probably more of make sure your loved one has this than a gift as it will involve personal information. But there is such piece of mind knowing he or she is wearing a medical alert bracelet. My favorite is from Road ID. It fits on my Apple Watch band - something I wear everyday and it has everything anyone would need to know about me incase of an emergency. Lastly, I wanted to share The Art of Seth. I love his work so much. A friend gifted me this art piece which made me cry immediately and I framed it and put it in a special place in my home. Sometimes it's something like this that can make a patient feel seen and loved. So maybe The Art of Seth will touch you like it did me, or maybe you will find another artist that is perfect for what your friend is facing. Thanks for reading friends, I hope you found something that can help you say, "I love you and I'm here for you" in a meaningful way! xoxo, Allyson
- What do we eat in a week after weight loss surgery?
REMEMBER: EVERYONE'S PLAN IS DIFFERENT One of the craziest things to us when researching prior to and post weight-loss surgery was that there is no one plan. They may be similar, and people may follow overall the same guidelines, but we've found each combination of surgery center and dietary guidelines are different. That can be... petrifying. Overwhelming. Frustrating. It doesn't have to be! With a few simple modifications we've found that we can modify most things that we're eating to work for us, even on two drastically different plans. At the time of writing this Allyson and Cortni are between 4-5 months post-op. Where do you find recipe inspiration? Allyson: I have always loved to cook and try new recipes and after WLS nothing has changed! I still find myself searching food bloggers recipes and watching social for new inspiration. I love Skinnytaste of course! But also am absolutely loving all of these amazing salads that seem to be viral right now. I have been hungry for savory things, fresh ingredients and flavorful dishes and luckily it totally fits with what my surgeons plan is at the moment. Cortni: I am also living for Skinnytaste - Gina has been a go-to for me through every way of eating, and her recipes are approachable, easy to modify, and split by various lifestyles on her website. Her instagram is the definition of food inspo and I've never had a bad recipe from her! Other people I love are: MyBariatricDietician (Megan) on Instagram who posts bariatric-friendly meal options and protein ideas! (Megan is my dietician who I mention on the podcast and I loved working with her)! BariatricChefboyrd (Sam) on Instagram who posts so many fantastic ideas of what different amounts of protein can look like and is FUN! TheGuacwardDietician (Haley) on Instagram who has fantastic protein and snack ideas and also a super healthy bariatric mindset! I also found a great article from Delish about high-protein and low-carb summer recipes that I've been loving as inspo! How do you plan out meals - or do you? Allyson: I am also a bit of a creature of habit and like to know I have a routine. It helps ground me and helps me feel like I have control of what I am eating. I always make sure I have my staples in the freezer for days I don't have time to cook. I use Super Cubes to freeze my favorite turkey chili recipe, I buy turkey meatballs and always have shrimp on hand. I try to plan out my meals on Sunday's but honestly not always. With knowing I have staples I can lean on - it really opens up my weeks to allow me to cook on the fly. Cortni: I start the week with the best intentions. I plan, I prep, I shop, and then I end up with too much food for two people (one eating tiny meals), and I hate food waste. But, I want variety. So it's a balance between buying too much and planning too little to not succeed. It's why I end up eating out often, and am thankful for a city with so many healthy and clean-eating options where I can do so on the dime. Breakfast Breakfast is admittedly the hardest meal of the day for both of us. These are the foods we feel least excited about right now, we're not hungry first thing in the morning, and eggs can get old fast. A: I usually have one of two things. I have a hard boiled egg - I use my trusty Dash Rapid Egg Cooker to make my egg and I put some of my favorite salt from Jacobsen Salt on top of my egg and have one Grillo's Pickle spears along with it. If I want to mix it up I have cottage cheese with a healthy dose of pepper and salt with some blistered cherry tomatoes. Both of these make me super happy and fill me up for my morning meal. Breakfast used to be the hardest meal for me but lately because I know what I like - these have been my go to favorites and I look forward to breakfast. Skinnytaste Burst Tomato Cottage Cheese Caprese Bowl - such a great alternative to eggs. That bite with a the blistered tomato is heaven. Deviled eggs with lox and capers and pickle relish Skinnytaste High Protein Scrambled Eggs with Cottage Cheese C: I find I need something I can take on the go and potentially even have across an hour or two if meetings span (I am AWFUL at waking up early) the morning. My go-to has been this shake: Chocolate Protein Shake: 5oz vanilla unsweetened almond milk, 3oz cold brew concentrate (we make), 1 scoop Isopure Low Carb Dutch Chocolate protein powder, 1 tbsp no sugar added peanut butter*, 1 tbsp cacao powder, ice. (34g protein, 6 net carbs, 15 fat). *you can sub out PB2 if your body reacts better to it, or you need less fat in a serving We have a fun TikTok of me making this you can check out! Lunch A: Lunch varies. Sometimes it is left overs from dinner the day before, sometimes its my favorite turkey chili that I have on hand always in the freezer. I like tuna with celery sticks for lunch and meatballs are also a go to lunch favorite. Skinnytaste Mediterranean Chicken + Chickpea Salad - Chicken, tomato, chicken peas, feta, cucumber, red onion, lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper cold salad Ambitious Kitchen The Best Healthy Turkey Chili made without the corn. I love this meal. I always have a freezer stash of this and it is so satisfying! Skinnytaste Chickpea Egg Salad Tuna Salad: sometimes I make a tuna, onion and mayo version with a side of pickle slices and celery. But you can make it fancier with so many options like Skinnytaste’s chickpea tuna too! Skinnytaste Italian Turkey Meatballs C: Lunch needs to be quick for me because I'm often working through it due to time zone differences. I love simple, and also something that I can not think about. Some tried and true favorites and my focus for this week has been: 3 turkey meatballs with Rao’s sauce and Caprese salad (1 slice each of tomato and mozzarella + basil and balsamic drizzle) Allyson absolutely got me hooked on the Skinnytaste Mediterranean Chicken + Chickpea Salad too! It's so easy and tasty! My work offers paid lunches Tues-Thurs via a service called Lunch Drop. 5-6 local restaurants are featured daily and then a food runner picks up all the company's orders from each place and brings them to the office. A few options I enjoyed this week were: grilled chicken salad, grilled chicken wrap with buffalo sauce that I added my own light ranch to and ate sans wrap, and protein bowls without the grains or with a few bites of a whole grain. It's so easy and I love the variety! Snacks A: I actually don't snack between meals other than a protein shake and taking sips of pickle juice. C: I didn't originally snack, and honestly I'm not typically hungry for one (hunger for me at this time is a nauseous feeling or uneasy/queasy stomach). However, after meeting with my dietician about meeting protein goals and making sure I keep my energy and nutrients up, I've started adding an afternoon snack. A few variations: Hard boiled egg, carrot sticks and hummus Low-fat string cheese, salt + vinegar pistachios, berries Chomps meat stick Apple with PB2 Dinner A: I try to mix up dinner as often as I can. I love making chicken kabobs on the grill and lately I have been into using my favorite keto bbq sauce by Lillies to dip them in! Yum! I love marinating chicken and popping that into the airfryer. I love all things Skinnytaste and am usually stalking her site to find food that will work for me. Skinnytaste Sloppy Joe with turkey and served in a bell pepper Such a great family meal - everyone can eat it and it is a crowd pleaser Crab legs with cocktail sauce Shish kabob with tzatziki sauce Chicken marinated in Franks red hot: 1/2 cup of franks, 2 tablespoon of Flavor God ranch sauce 3 tablespoon olive oil and then air fry Boiled shrimp in chicken stock with tzatziki sauce and cocktail sauce with boiled mushrooms Skinnytaste Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore - another meal that is great for myself and my family. I make mine with chicken breast rather than thighs Cooked by Julie Air Fryer Salmon Bites C: Dinner is usually based on what sounds good or how I feel. Dinner is also where I make a final push for protein in my day, so it's usually a simple meat and side. Thankfully it's rarely not good grilling weather here, so we grill often: Taco insides from a local spot (think pulled pork, avacado, fresh cheese, onions) Scallops on the grill with veggie sides Crab legs or meat with veggie sides Fish grilled with veggie sides Dessert A: Watermelon is always a win for me! C: Grilled peaches are my favorite, especially in the summer! I've been grilling them with nothing on them, and enjoying a half after dinner if I'm craving something sweeter. Loving fresh fruit as an option for true dessert when I want it! Allyson and Jeff just got me the Ninja Creami for my birthday and I'm super excited to try any and all recipes with that! We hope we inspired you, and gave you more places to look for ideas, or the confidence to modify things to work for you! Feel welcome to share any favorites in the comments below, we'd love to try them! xoxo, a+c
- Top 10 things to consider when choosing weight loss surgery
WEIGHT LOSS SURGERY IS NOT AN EASY DECISION Weight loss surgery can often be called "the easy way out." When in fact, it's truly anything but. In the weeks and months leading up to surgery, and after your procedure is complete, your life completely changes. There's a lot of information to remember, there's appointments and follow ups, food becomes strategic, and you're doing everything you can to give yourself the best chance with this new tool. We've come up with a list of the top 10 things we recommend to consider when choosing weight loss surgery: 1. Insurance requirements Insurance can be amazing when seeking weight loss surgery, it can also be a nightmare. First and foremost you want to know what kinds of procedures and programs your insurance covers. If they cover a weight loss center, but not bariatric surgery, you may need to consider alternatives or saving for your WLS. If they do cover surgery, there can be implications such as 'documented weight loss attempts under the guidance of a physician for three years' or 'low-carb diet attempted within the last 3 months.' Often these requirements include specific documentation, and sometimes even terms, that need to be noted in order for a letter from your physician to count. Knowing this up front will help you formulate a plan, as well as make a timeline of when you can expect next steps. 2. Researching your surgeon and team When you find a surgeon who is within your insurance network, or research a surgeon that you feel comfortable paying for surgery with, make sure to look at reviews. What do other patients say? Are they a part of a team or greater group? What services do they offer? What is their program like? What is the support before and after surgery? There are many different kinds of services for bariatric patients. For example your center may include a psychological evaluation with a therapist, a bariatric exercise program, meetings with a nutritionist, support groups, etc. Make sure you have a list of questions and don't be afraid to ask them. You are your biggest advocate. If it doesn't feel right, move on and find someone else. 3. Your mental well-being It's important to consider if you're in.a good mental space to change your relationship with food drastically. Weight loss surgery is not an easy solution, and you'll spend a lot of time getting in proper nutrients, eating for healing, and maintaining the health that you've worked so hard for. If you have any underlying conditions such as binge eating, emotional eating, reacting to stress with food, etc. you should plan to work with a specialist to resolve prior to scheduling surgery. 4. Who will be your support system? Right after surgery it will be hard to move and you'll need someone physically able to help you in the coming days or weeks. However, there's also an emotional component to surgery. You've just had a life-changing procedure, and the next few months are about relearning your relationship with food. That undoubtedly takes an emotional toll and having a support system that you are comfortable being honest with is vital for this stage. We understand that you might not feel ready to share your surgery with your community, and you may never wish to, but having 1-2 people you can confide in is amazing. The Instagram WLS Community is also a huge support for questions, guidance, and inspiration! 5. Time off from work Everyone's recovery time is different but it's important to check with your employer about time off of work. If you work a desk job, you may find that you need 1-2 weeks off and then feel able to return to work. If you work a manual labor job, you may need to discuss a modified schedule with your employer. Always keep in mind medical programs you may be eligible for, or ask if vacation time is required. Allowances will vary by state and place of employment. Whatever your situation, make sure to have a plan for your body to heal. 6. This is a tool, not a fix-all It would be amazing if you woke up from surgery instantly 50 or 100 pounds lighter. If the mental work instantly paid off. In reality, this is a tool. It will only work if you put the work in. Despite what the old adage "it's the easy way out" proclaims, this is anything but easy. You'll have to put the work and commitment in, both during post-op and for the rest of your life as maintenance. This is a life-long decision towards your health. 7. Putting yourself first So many of us get used to saying yes and putting others first. Whether at work, home, school, etc. it can be hard to prioritize what is best for you. With WLS you have to do that. You have to be prepared to advocate for the food you can have at family dinner, be prepared to prioritize your follow up appointments, make sure that there's always time for water. You have to put you first, as uncomfortable as that may feel. You're worth it! 8. Vitamins No matter which weight loss surgery you get, you'll be on a vitamin regiment for the rest of your life. Some surgeries require more vitamins due to their malabsorption component, but each surgeon and hospital will be able to advise what they recommend. Not only will you need to commit to taking these supplements daily, but you'll need to consider the costs of vitamins and when they need to be taken (with meals, in the morning, etc.). 9. Be prepared to stall Those first few weeks after surgery are incredible. You're losing bloating weight post-op, you're losing water weight, and you're shrinking! The scale, your buddy, is saying "good job!" And then, all of a sudden, it stops. For no reason. You've been eating your protein, your water goals are met, you're walking your halls like a boss, and yet nothing. This is perfectly normal. Your body is healing, and later in your journey it will be adjusting. The best thing to do in these moments is to put your scale away. Take photos, measure inches, focus on how you feel. So many amazing things are transforming and happening and the scale is only one way to measure them. Stalls schmalls. You've got this! 10. Everyone, and we do mean everyone, will have an opinion Whether you decide to share or not, people are going to notice that you're losing weight. And for some absurd reason, society feels that it's ok to mention that with a "you look fantastic, what have you been doing?" or a "I haven't seen you in so long, you've lost a whole person!" Maybe even worse is the comments from people you've told who like to ask, "you can eat THAT?" or "well I've always wanted to get weight loss surgery but I just can't afford the time off of work." Silence them. Truly. Whether you need to take a walk, talk to your therapist, color aggressively - whatever it is do it. Our culture is obsessed with weight. Losing it, gaining it, who's done what. You owe no explanation and having a candid reply or two ready can make the situation feel less stressful. My go to? "Thanks, I am feeling so healthy!" Wishing you all the best as you start out on your journey! Reach out to us for any questions, and we're so proud of you! xoxo, a+c
- Why weight loss surgery: Allyson
Allyson There I was sitting in my paper gown - that was a wee bit too small - waiting for my cardiologist to come in. I was running through any questions I wanted to ask while thinking about all of my to do list items for the day. It was a a routine cardiologist appointment that I have been doing since I was 13 when I was diagnosed with a genetic heart disease. That disease has shaped my life. Removing me from gym class, field days, cardio exercise, making daily medicines as part of my routine and countless heart surgeries. When the doctor walked in that day, he said the words “You are in heart failure and you will need a heart transplant.” The world stopped for me. I am not even sure if I exhaled the breath I was holding. “But” he said, “if you don’t get this weight off you won’t be eligible for a transplant when you need it.” And there it was. A statement that didn’t feel like a choice. I knew I had to get weight loss surgery. With everything with my heart over the decades and a pesky brain tumor that destroyed my pituitary gland - I knew I couldn’t lose the weight and keep it off without help. I had been on keto a for over a year at the time of the cardiologist visit and lost 50 lbs. but had stopped losing. Over the years I had lost about 80 lbs. 3 or 4 times in my life but it always crept its way back. “if you don’t get this weight off you won’t be eligible for a transplant when you need it.” I drove home from that visit in shock. Anger. Sadness. Denial. All of that. I told very few people. I called my husband Jeff and texted Cortni. When the text bubbles turned into “Ill get the surgery with you” I wasn’t sure if she was serious but I smiled. Up until this point all of my health crisis’s have been walked alone. I can’t properly put into words what it is like to have Cortni along side of me for this. Health in all aspects can be such a lonely road but being able to share the triumphs and the tears with someone who understands is a gift. That feeling of gratefulness lead us to start No Guts No Glory. A place where Cortni, myself and our amazing husbands could share our fears, frustrations and successes and hopefully make anyone reading or listening less alone.
- Why weight loss surgery: Cortni
Cortni My journey actually started with Allyson. After reading her text, “I have to get weight loss surgery to be eligible for a heart transplant,” my mind raced through years of surgeries, things I couldn't possibly understand, and how I wanted to support her. I texted back, “I’ll do it with you.” You know the decisions that sit in the corner of your mind? The ones just sitting there, waiting for their day to be dusted off and have their moment to shine? That was weight loss surgery for me. I’d previously thought of it as something that just failed. Having years of aunts and cousins who tried, but always gained the weight back – or worse who ended up in the hospital from infections and leaking stomachs. But in 2021 medical advances and the recent success story of another Aunt left me more confident. I had no idea what my weight was at that time. Spoiler alert, it was over 411 pounds. All I knew was in the past two years over the pandemic I’d gained every ounce back from when I did the keto diet, my knee was swollen, and I could barely walk. Weeks before, Allyson and Jeff had visited us in TX. During that trip I struggled to walk down the hallway, limping from my knee and gasping for air - both from pain and from lack of movement. I was the biggest I’d ever been. I’d spent weeks prepping with my husband Rob about how we could accomplish the traveling and fun proposed, while also accommodating the fact that I could not move. “It is so hard to pick yourself up off the floor and try again and again, knowing you have years of missed successes under your belt." We went to see the Alamo during that trip, and I’d spent the night before pulling up Google Maps to see how we could navigate Alamo Square in San Antonio on a Sunday. How my husband could park close, despite the entire block being closed off. We found a parking spot that felt so far away to me. After an hour at the Alamo, Jeff and Rob went to get the car, and Allyson waited with me while they did. As we sat waiting for them, I could see how far away the car truly was. It was a block. I felt ashamed. We sat there, and Allyson turned to me, put her hand on my knee, and did the single most important thing a friend has ever done for me. She asked, “I’m really worried about you. What’s your plan?” I took a sharp breath and with tears in my eyes I just said, “I don’t know. But I know it has to change. Thank you.” My unspoken words were thank you for seeing me. Thank you for not turning away. My husband Rob is one of the best people I know and he has been with me for sixteen years. Over those years he’s seen me do Weight Watchers, Keto, the Mediterranean Diet, WW again during one of it’s forty-five rebrands, and he’s seen me succeed and seen me fail. He’s held my hand, done diets with me, cooked for me, cooked with me, and he’s been my partner through it all. I am sure he’s tired. He’s been honest that he doesn’t feel comfortable policing me, and I need to want this for my own. And I just haven’t been able to. Because it is so hard to pick yourself up off the floor and try again and again, knowing you have years of missed successes under your belt. So Allyson not turning away and being the first person in my life besides Rob to look at me and say, “I’m worried about you,” was a reality. I explained that I knew I needed to lose weight for my knee, but I didn’t know how. That I couldn’t do keto again because it was too restrictive to do for life, and I worried about my long term health with it. But that it was knee surgery or help, and I knew I needed help. When we traveled weeks later and the urgency of her surgery became apparent, I knew I was truly in this with Allyson. There was no looking back. I booked an appointment for September 14th, with a surgeon I spent hours researching, who I believed was the person to help me. I walked into his office, took a shaky breath, and said, “I need help.”