Sandi Henderson Lost 250 Pounds and Found Herself

Patient Expert

Sandi Henderson reached her heaviest weight at 424 pounds. With a BMI of 68.5 and wearing size 28 clothes, Sandi knew she had to find a permanent weight loss solution. She tried diets and medications in the past, but always lost weight only to gain it back. On May 28, 2004 Sandi underwent the LapBand weight-loss surgery. Just over two years later, Sandi weighed a healthy 174 pounds and wore a size 12. She'd lost more than half her body weight. Here is her incredible story:

**My Bariatric Life: Sandi, in your words, "I struggled with being fat since I was 3-years-old." What weight loss approaches did you try before bariatric surgery?  **

Sani Henderson: Name it, I tried it; From diet pills as a teenager, to Weight Watchers, Diet Watchers, Atkins. I lost weight every time, but regained it, and more.

MBL: How did you get to a point where you realized you needed obesity surgery? What research did you do to arrive at the LAP-BAND procedure?

Sandi: I had been reading about a relatively new, minimally invasive weight loss surgery called LAP BAND. I had never wanted surgery before because I did not want my insides cut and stapled and re-plumbed. I had a hypertension crisis in my PCP's office. When she gave me meds sublingually before she would allow me to leave, and I left with a prescription   in my hand, I knew I could no longer live in denial that my weight was killing me. I decided to attend a seminar to find out more about the LAP BAND and I made an appointment with my surgeon before I left that evening. I knew it was the right surgery choice for me, and although even my doctor tried to talk me out of it, I persevered and he agreed to the procedure. I made the absolute right choice for me.

MBL: Your extraordinary weight loss of 250 pounds from LAP-band is not typical. To what do you owe your outstanding success?

Sandi: I am a super-achiever in everything I do and always have been. I followed the "rules" to the letter 99 percent of the time, and the weight just kept coming off which simply gave me the encouragement and motivation to keep on going. I also created a strong support system:  attending support group meetings regularly, meeting with my doctor regularly and creating a network of friends on similar journeys to associate with outside of the meetings. I was not alone on my journey. I asked for help and received it as needed. This is crucial to immediate and long-term success. In addition, I educated myself as to the habits I would need to be successful for the long term and put them into place in my lifestyle. I expected no miracle from my surgery, just the relief of my constant physical hunger. I did the rest of the work in changing my lifestyle habits.

**MBL: Your surgery was over a decade ago. Thinking back, what were those early years like learning to be healthy?  **

Sandi: It was tough. I had to learn a new life. When I needed to get up from my desk it couldn't be to stroll across the parking lot for chips and soda. I had to learn the protein values and the caloric values of everything I put in my mouth. I needed to stay well hydrated with water, not soda or coffee. I had probably been eating in the neighborhood of 2500 -3500 calories a day before surgery and had to get this down to 1200 calories maximum after surgery. It's a process and I approached it one day and one pound at a time.

**MBL: Do you still struggle?  **

Sandi: Everyone struggles who is a food addict. My food addiction remains and I still have to fight demons occasionally. Stress is the biggest trigger for me, so stress reduction is key to my long term success. I have to understand that life is going to throw some curve balls, some bigger and harder than others, and there is only so much I can control in my life. Those things within my control are what I can deal with, nothing more. I need to breathe and leave the rest up to the universe to sort. In addition, I need to avoid sugar and processed foods and eat as clean and healthy as I can because that is what provides my satiety and deals with my physical hunger without the "blood sugar spikes and crashes" that sugar, high fructose corn syrup and lots of artificial sweeteners create.

MBL: Give us an idea of a typical day's menu, including supplements and hydration. How do you keep physically active?

Sandi: Regarding vitamins and supplements I take: a multivitamin, B complex, biotin, chondroitin glucosamine and calcium magnesium, and D each day. I am 99.9 percent compliant with these. They are either bariatric branded vitamins or high quality supplements from other sources. I value my health so I take only the best. No bargain brands for me.

Hydration: I average 72-110 oz of water or herbal tea (no caffeine) daily

A typical daily food plan goes like this:

Up at 5- 2 cups of herbal mint tea, 1 cup of coffee and then off to the gym

I make a protein shake with frozen blueberries, almond milk, flax seed meal and pure whey isolate protein powder and drink ½ before my work out and ½ after my workout.

I swim laps 30-45 minutes 3 days a week, do 30 minutes on the elliptical 3 days a week and on 2 of those elliptical days weight train for 60 minutes one day and 30 minutes the other.

Between 11 and 12 I have my breakfast which is typically an egg white omelet with either bacon bits, turkey, sausage, and cheese.

Between 3 and 4 I have some chicken or tuna salad on baby spinach with cucumber and tomato or just some deli lunch meat rolled up with cheese or around a pickle, or something leftover from the night before.

Between 7 and 8 I have a small baby spinach salad with cucumber and tomato, some fish or chicken or meat and a veggie.

At around 10 I will often   have a cup of herbal tea or some sugar free hot chocolate.

Sounds kind of boring but it's not. The meals I make are not diet meals. I make interesting and tasty dishes with healthy ingredients resulting in low calorie/high protein delicious meals. Example- I will poach fresh shrimp in salsa verde and serve over spaghetti squash, or prepare ahi tuna with a jerk seasoning and sear it and serve with asparagus tips..Doesn't sound boring or diet-like to me. I will never be "on a diet" again. They fail when I stop following them.

MBL: We've looked at what you did to address your physical body through nutrition and exercise. What did you do to address mind and spirit?

Sandi: I accepted that I had to make me  the priority in order to be able to be there for everyone else in my life. As this evolved, I learned that making me a priority allowed me to be present more in my own life so this was a gift of the process to me and I am very grateful for it.

I surrounded myself with WINNERS, folks on their journey to health and fitness with similar goals to mine, who kept a positive mental attitude going. I learned to turn my "I Cant's" into "I Cans" and learned to trust myself and the POWER that I had in the universe to make changes. I had to begin loving who I was each day in order to make those changes a reality. Self love, positive self-talk, non-food rewards for mini goals achieved, celebrating every non-scale victory, documenting my journey, paying it forward by speaking at support groups and informational seminars" all of this allowed me to embrace who I was, who I had been, and to choose who I was becoming and create Sandi as she is today: A strong, fit, beautiful, capable and confident woman who wants to share herself with others who are seeking themselves.

Stay tuned for an upcoming interview on Sandi Henderson's roles as a bariatric educator, author, and co-founder of

You also may be interested in my slideshow, Meet 8 People Who Reclaimed their Lives from Obesity.

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