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