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Obesity Action Coalition Second Annual Convention #YWM2013

This gallery contains 73 photos.

So I am back in Oregon after attending the Obesity Action Coalition’s second annual Your Weight Matters Convention in Phoenix, Arizona. Things have settled down a little. I had a few days with friends to unwind and now it is time to tell you about the amazing adventure that I had in Phoenix.

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We arrived on Wednesday flying in with my friend Kesha from Waning Woman and enough bags to likely provide clothes for all of our friends at the event, for a day or so at least! What can I say; we’re women who like clothes and shoes! Once we negotiated all our bags into a van we headed for the Arizona Grand Resort and got checked in.

Thursday morning I was up early and having a hard time sleeping due to the stitches that were still in my chest and left arm pit after having a little nip tuck a week or so prior. Despite my sleep deprivation; I was alive and alert and enthusiastic about being there by the time Advocacy Training rolled around. Next up, it was a crunch to rush back to the room to get dressed and steal an hour to participate in a live tweet session with Chris and Heidi Powell while eating dinner. Once I had fuel it was time to head to the OAC Member Mingle and the evening discussion “Teaming up to Tackle Obesity” with NSF players Corey Louchiey and James Throton. I sat next to Nikii from Bariatric Foodie and Joy from Kosher Bariatric and we had a great evening laughing at their humor as the two men shared their story about their with battle obesity.

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Friday morning I got up early to go help out my friend Michelle from The World According to Eggface with the morning walk she was leading and get everyone warmed up. Notice my Bobby Whisnand “It’s All Heart T-Shirt” – in the photo to the right, ( I gotta show my mentor some love) – After getting everyone warmed up I decided to join the walk. Of course, as the walk ended I was busted by none other than my dear friend, bariatric surgery coordinator and nurse Tammy Beaumont, who quickly sent me to my room to shower and clean the glistening sheen of sweat off my stitches. I listened to a whole lot of lectures about Pandora overdoing it over breakfast that morning; and likely deserved each one. Then it was time for the Convention to begin…

I could list the sessions of the day and go through each one in detail, but I won’t, instead I will share pieces of information later as we go a little at a time with you. What I will say is that my favorite speaker of the Friday educational sessions was definitely Merrill Littleberry. Her talk on “Who’s Staring back at You in the Mirror? Improving Self-Perceptions,” hit home big time for me when she displayed a list of negative quotes some people had said about some of the worlds most famous people who turned out to do some truly amazing things. It drove home my recent revelation that I needed to change my direction a little and be more about my vision than anyone else’s vision for me.

I must say, Dr. Gary D. Foster and his Saturday talk on “Weighing Success Beyond the Scale: Identifying and Maintaining and Healthy Weight” was quite possible my favorite topic of the entire convention. I felt privileged to sit in a room as so many of my peers heard the message that Dr. Robert Kushner was able to pass to me last year and finally start to see that that last 10 lb. they might be chasing could be the difference between a “dream weight” and a “healthy weight” and that our success is categorized by more than a number on a scale or chart.

Friday evening’s party was fun and amazing and boy did Kesha and I rock those Ursula costumes … what a night.  It was so fun seeing so many people all dressed up. I think Tammy and Joy had my favorite costumes on with the Tom Hanks, Castaway character and his trusted volleyball. The Sponge Bob Squarepants costume rocked as well, and the Pirates were amazing! I spent some time on the dance floor wiggling my booty and avoiding flying volleyballs for a while, but it had been a long day for me, I was exhausted and tired and it was time for this octopus to get some sleep. (The face make up did come off first though.)

Saturday morning came earlier than I expected and the sessions seemed to zoom by and I really didn’t feel like I had nearly enough time to hit the vendor booths and really talk to folks. I was able to say hi to some of my favorite Vitamin Companies, the folks at Celebrate VitaminsAmeriWell and Bari-Life and of course my two favorite protein powder companies Chike and Bi-Pro.  I also got to meet the folks at Quest and Perky Jerky, and the two best peanut butter products on the market were there, PB2 and Better Butter.

Of course Celebrate Vitamins  is my favorite one on that list because they are “How do YOU Celebrate Success” Contest Sponsors.

Before I knew it Saturday afternoon was upon us. I had the amazing opportunity of sitting at Dr. Al Aly’s table for lunch with the experts and listen to him answer people’s questions about reconstructive surgery, skin removal, and body contouring after massive weight loss. I attended Dr. Gary D. Foster’s afternoon session “Channeling Stress: Healthy Outlets to Replace the Calories,” and Dr. Sean G. Connolly’s “Who’s In Control? The Science Behind Willpower,” before rushing off to the Saturday Afternoon General Session – “Expectations of Your Body after Weight-loss: Plastic Surgery and Other Options,” discussion where I was member of the panel. This was my first time being asked to speak at an OAC event and it was so exciting and scary at the same time. I truly felt out of my league up there amongst such esteemed professionals. But it was over before I knew it and Saturday night was upon us. The awards dinner was underway and we were all looking fabulous!

The awards dinner is actually a sad night for me. It’s the prelude to good-bye which is just around the corner the next morning. Even though I was excited to get a peek at the #YWM2013 Convention wrap-up video that they put together to show us, at the same time it brings tears to my eyes knowing there are some many people I love in this community that I won’t get to see again until next year.

 

RainbowBriteSunday morning came too early and the Walk from Obesity where I was grounded from participating because I still had stitches and wasn’t supposed to get sweaty, in Phoenix, Arizona, in August began. (Yeah Right! Like this was even possible it was 110 outside!) I was dressed up like some sort Rainbow Brite and Punky Brewster love child, and participating via loan of a little scooter thanks to the very thoughtful Kristy Kuna at the Obesity Action Coalition. I managed to snap a few quick pictures at the walk then I did a video testimonial and then rushed up to the room so Tammy could yank my stitches out before she had to leave. Our Sunday afternoon consisted of Ethiopian food and tearful goodbyes as I had to start leaving people I likely won’t see for another year or so if not longer and close friends I made in Dallas and am going to miss dearly now that I am back in Portland, OR on a regular basis.

I am so blessed to have met so many wonderful people in Phoenix, Arizona at the Second Annual Your Weight Matters National Convention, and I can’t wait to bring you more up to date news and information from the OAC and the YWM2014 Convention as it becomes available.

The Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) is the ONLY non-profit organization whose sole focus is representing individuals affected by obesity. If you are affected by obesity or care for individuals affected, I ask that you join the OAC today and help us strengthen our voice. Together we DO make a difference.

I am a proud Member, Trained Advocate and Supporter of the OAC

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Sex – Excess Skin and Body Contouring After WLS Weight Loss

I’m a Gastric Bypass patient that has lost 260 lb. I’m a WLS Exercise and Bariatric Fitness Enthusiast and I am now a four time Reconstructive Plastic Surgery patient.

I’ve written several articles that approach the concept of Body Contouring Surgery after WLS or Massive weight loss from a couple different directions, the emotional journey, the body image issues, the pain involved, I’ve even talked about body functions and genital relocation. This next topic shouldn’t shock you at all.

totally-naughty-panda-emoticon-12-1Sex. Yup, Sex, because let me tell you Reconstructive Plastic Surgery affected my sex life in epic proportions.

First, let’s talk a little about sex before plastic surgery…

There is a moment in one of Yvonne McCarthy’s [ Bariatric Girl ] videos when she used to do her show that stuck with me forever when I was a post-op gastric bypass patient looking for information about what the excess skin would be like after my RNY and after my weight loss. She was doing an interview with a gentleman [ WLS Journeys: Guest Ramon Lopez ] that talked about how there was a moment after his weight loss where he heard the sound of clapping during exercise and didn’t realize at first that it was his skin smacking together as he ran. I remembered this story probably more than any other that I had heard pre-op RNY because I knew, it was something I was going to go through later and not a lot of people seemed to discuss the excess skin openly.

I had a very similar moment pre-reconstructive surgery. I was in the middle of a very intimate moment, swinging my hips back and forth and when I realized that my movements were causing my stomach to swing forward and make a skin on skin slapping sound as it swung back. It nearly paralyzed me. Of course, I was reassured that this wasn’t an issue “Stop worrying about noises and just be with me,” but once something like that gets in your head it’s hard to get rid of. This was one of those defining moments for me when it came to skin removal surgery. There were lots of other factors in my decision, just like when I decided to have weight loss surgery to begin with, but this was one of those embarrassing moments that I promised myself I would “fix” so I never had to endure again.

totally-naughty-panda-emoticon-6Let’s talk about how my first few surgeries changed my sex life… guess what.. it made it REALLY difficult. My first surgery, I had a lot of swelling complications, I would say that I was easily what we will refer to as “out of commission” for a good 8-10 weeks. There were big changes in my body after that surgery, parts of me that were numb to the touch and it felt strange to have someone touch me there, see that they were touching me and yet not feel it. I had this spot on my upper thighs that was right about the same place the dogs would run up and put their paws on me at when I was sitting down, and to this day, I still have a duller sensation when I am touched there than before. But it took me getting past the complications, pain, and strange feelings my body was experience before I even wanted to be intimate again.

My next surgery in August changed things for me even more. In this surgery, we took the excess skin out of my breasts and did a breast lift which included relocating the nipple and areola. My breasts were so sensitive it was ridiculous. This surgery probably only knocked me out of commission for another six weeks while everything was healing. But my nipples developed hypersensitivity [ Its not Masturbation its exploratory ]and it was like, if you blew on me those darn things got hard and when it happened it wasn’t a “happy” sexy moment, it was painful, sent shivers through me, and felt very awkward. I had to start working on desensitizing them to touch, and to be honest, it never went back to normal. After about six months it got to a point that my nipples could be involved in sexual play again, but in a completely different way than before…  suddenly my nipples were one of the most sensitive parts of my body in bed they required a stamp of “Fragile Handle with Care”

When we did my medial thigh lift a few months later in November all bets were off. You have incisions from your knee all the way up to your groin and from that point forward along the crease between your thigh and your girl or boy bits with that sort of thigh lift, and to be blunt, my legs weren’t opening like that for a while. In this case I’d say it took another 6-8 weeks.

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The time that you’re “out of commission” isn’t the only big changes though. I noticed a difference in my sex life very quickly after that first surgery. A lot of the skin in my mons area had been removed and my girl parts were re-arranged a little. Suddenly I didn’t like the way things felt at times. Positions I used to like, I wasn’t comfortable in anymore, and at every turn I was saying things like “Gently Please,” or “Slow down please,” or “Please move your hand that feels weird,” when I was being touched in a place that still had numbness, and after three surgeries there were a lot of places I felt numbness. Yeah ok, let’s be blunt, when I was a bigger girl I liked things a little fast and rough, maybe I had more cushion inside ( I’d have to ask some doctors about that theory ) but it changed for me a lot after losing weight and cutting my body and sewing it back together a few times. No more Lady GaGa “If it ain’t rough it isn’t fun.” theology in my bed. It was more like, “I really want to do this please don’t hurt me, please don’t hurt me, please don’t hurt me.” There was a lot of me feeling fragile to myself, and even more of me feeling fragile to my partner who was afraid of touching me the wrong way because really, who wants to hurt the person you love in bed unless it’s in a kinky way, right?

Also while we are being blunt and honest, there was a change in what felt good to me in regards to size. Suddenly things felt “bigger” to me than they were before. As a woman we get used to where things fit inside us, we get used to a sensation where a certain place perhaps gets rubbed at a certain angle. Suddenly, that changed for me, it was like moving my mons around moved my insides around or losing all that weight shifted where things were inside me and things were more sensitive, seemed tighter, and less accommodating to my partner. It was a scary transition too. Suddenly you don’t like things the way you used to like them and if you have been with someone for quite a while, that can be an awkward place of “re-learning.”

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Let me just also give you this little head’s up my friends. A lot of these reconstructive surgeries to do excess skin removal after massive weight loss are done on parts of your body that are very active during times of intimacy. Your thighs, your mons, your abdomen, your breasts, your arms. Imagine taking a few of those out of commission during your sexual activity for a while. It’s changes things a lot. Now once you get past that here is my tip. Keep in mind as you “return” to sexual activity that the first time good things happen and your muscles all tighten and your body gets rigid… it’s going to hurt in a way that makes you want to roll your eyes in not so great way to deal with the pain. Seriously, it reminded me of losing my virginity, I just sort of laid there gasping going “Why did that hurt so bad?”

I have no idea yet how this last surgery is going to change my sex life. I know that I was released and allowed to have intercourse a lot earlier. ( I had the green light after three weeks ) but that doesn’t  mean my body is ready, and I know it isn’t.

After having implants done, I have no nipple sensation at all yet  ( They say it will come back eventually ) my breasts are extremely tender, like, they feel like I’ve been punched in them several times and have the sensitive hurt and achy feeling I used to experience when I still menstruated. Since my surgeon re-cut my bikini line and lifted my pubic area quite a bit ( He made that area of my body look AMAZING really ) there is a lot of painful sensitivity in my mons area and until that goes away I know sex isn’t something in which I’ll be remotely interested.

So if I had to add it up, in the past 68 weeks of having reconstructive plastic surgery, there were about 24 weeks of healing time that I simply could NOT be intimate at all and likely another 24 weeks or so of “Not tonight hun my body still feels weird to me,” that I didn’t want to be intimate whether I could or not.

No matter how you spin it, reconstructive plastic surgery after massive weight loss affects your sex life on an epic level. I’m not sure how many people would really tell you that, but you know I will. I’d love to hear the male perspective on this and see if it follows the same experience mind did. Just to end on a note of humor, it’s a darn good thing that sex wasn’t one of my transfer addictions, because if it had been, I would have been in big trouble when I started the WLS Plastics part of my journey.

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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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BariLife has decided to send me back to Paris to represent the WLS Community as I attempt to find my love of running again.
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