WLS Center E-Newsletter

A FREE publication from


Hosted by Barbara Thompson
Author of:
Weight Loss Surgery:
Finding the Thin Person Hiding Inside You.

Issue #52

August 1, 2004

In a surprising yet long overdo move, Tommy Thompson, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, declared that Medicare will now recognize obesity as a disease and will cover those treatments which are proven effective. This comes just in the nick of time as Blue Cross of Florida is ceasing coverage of weight loss surgery effective January 1, 2005. Hopefully this move will cause Blue Cross to rethink their action, although this may be wishful thinking. I have included news reports and comments regarding the Medicare decision in an article which follows. There are many questions that remain, but this is hopefully the beginning of better and more easily obtained coverage for what we know as a life saving treatment.

In This Issue


* Exercise CD is Now Shipping
* Research Article: Medicare Declares Obesity a Disease
* To Tell or Not to Tell
* Recipe: Lettuce Wraps
* Success Story: Bonnie Boudreaux
* Spreading the Word in Omaha, NE, Jeanette, PA and Boca Raton, FL

Exercise CD is Now Shipping

Exercise – You Gotta Do It!!! Why? Because You Can’t Reach Goal Without It!

If you missed my Exercise telephone seminar with Jon Gestl in June, you really missed a great opportunity to become energized, motivated, and informed.  The telephone seminar covered:

* What you can do to be safer going into surgery by starting to move now

* How you can break through those stubborn plateaus that you can still have even though you are exercising

*Important tips if you just hate to exercise

*The one secret about exercise that no one ever tells us

* and much more …..

The CD is only $19.95 with FREE shipping. Click here to order http://www.wlscenter.com/Teleseminar/Exercise/JonGestl.htm

Medicare Declares Obesity a Disease

July 16, 2004 was a very important day for anyone suffering from the disease of obesity. On that day, Medicare recognized obesity as a disease. The move was long overdue. The World Health Organization has recognized obesity as a disease since 1979. 

This recognition is important to not only how those of us who suffer from the disease will be approached and treated, but it will encourage research into finding new treatments and cures. It will also set a standard for insurance coverage, making it more difficult for insurance companies to deny treatment.

This move by Health and Human Services brought back a flood of memories of when I was approved for insurance coverage for my surgery.  When I received my acceptance I cried.  I cried not because I was afraid I wouldn’t be covered at all, but because someone in an official capacity recognized that I had a problem serious enough to warrant surgery. It somehow made me feel better about all those times when I struggled so hard to lose weight and failed over and over again. I failed because I had a disease, not because I was weak. It mattered to me, far more than I ever would have imagined. 

Obesity is a disease.  It is not a weakness that you and I share.  It is a disease that requires research and treatment. This recognition by Health and Human Services will have a profound effect on all of us.

To Tell or Not to Tell: Amber’s Dilemma

This question is a long one, but Amber gets into two basic issues that many people find troublesome:  who to tell about your surgery and how to tell them, as well as how much we are changed by losing a tremendous amount of weight.  It is worth your time reading no matter where you are on your journey:

I would like to thank Amber for offering to have her question posted in this e-newsletter so that all can benefit from the answer.  She asks that anyone who wants to offer support to her, please feel free to email her. Amber’s question and my answer follow.

Dear Barbara,
I have been obese for as long as I can remember.  I actually think that the only time my weight was “normal” was at birth.  All photos of when I was little show me as “oversized.”  I remember the dreaded days of lining up to be weighed in elementary school. At age 11, I was well over 160 pounds, in junior high school I was over 200 pounds and after that I lost track.  I am now 30 and weigh close to 300.  I am rather short, 5’5” if I stretch!

One day, about a year or so ago, I saw a show which featured some success stories of weight loss surgery patients.  This spurred me to do some research online.  As fate would have it I found your website!  I stayed up all night following all of the links and realizing that there could be help for me after all!  This could be the tool for me! 

As soon as the business day began I called my insurance company and found that weight loss surgery was covered as long as the usual protocols were met.  I began a flurry of research on different procedures, risks, surgeons, etc.  I then went to my PCP and began the ball rolling.

During this time I discovered a friend was going to have the surgery.  She had little to no complications and the weight began to fall off.  She is not my best friend, but I do know her rather well.  At this point she is about a year and a half post op and my best description of her weight is “tiny.”

She is 39 years old and has never looked her age. She looks great.  Since her weight loss there has also been a drastic change in her behavior.  She is very care-free and goes out on the town several nights a week until around 4 am.  She is married with a 10 year old at home.  There is obvious stress in her marriage.  It also seems that she has forgotten a lot of her old friends.  At social gatherings she tends to ignore them and when she does talk to them, all she really talks about is how she wants a “boob job” that will give her a body like Pamela Anderson’s.

I realize that her body has gone through some drastic changes and it is only natural that her behavior should accompany this.  But, we live in a small town and there are many people who speak very badly of her because they feel she has changed, and she is not the only one.  There is one other acquaintance that has had the surgery and the local consensus is that she has changed also.  Change can be a good thing, but to the local people, they feel the changes these two women have gone through are bad, sometimes I think these feelings began by a jealous person talking about them and other small minded people agreeing with them.

Now I will tie my concerns to what I have written above.  I work at a small local business and my boss and his wife are 2 of my dearest friends, who just so happen to be 2 of the people who most feel that the 2 women mentioned above have changed for the worse.  In fact, my boss has said, “I wish people wouldn’t lose all of this weight if their personality is going to change,” along with other poignant statements that puts weight loss surgery down.

Their feelings have caused me much anguish in deciding how to tell them of my surgery.  I still have some time before I have to tell them, as I just received my surgery date which is October 12th.    I am very worried about their preconceived feelings that I will change for the worse.  Do you have any advice on how or what I should tell them?  It is not only them that have expressed these feelings to me, it is others as well. 

I really don’t know what to tell them. I feel that my situation is very different, but I am afraid that they will not support me with this very important aspect of my life.  Do you have any suggestions, and I would also welcome suggestions from anyone who may be able to help. 

I must add one other concern of mine along the same lines. In the business I work in, I deal with the public constantly and it is a very small town.  What should I do when people ask why I am not working for the length of recovery, how I am losing weight, and all of the other questions the curious public tends to ask.

Please help me with this, as it is weighing heavily on my mind.  Any help with these situations would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks so much,

Dear Amber,
I could say, don’t worry about small minded people and just go for it, but I grew up in a very small town, population 1500, and I understand what small town life is like. It can be a wonderful environment because the town is really your extended family, but it can also be troublesome because when you have so many “family members” you find you can’t please everyone. So I can respect your dilemma.

Let me begin by saying that we are all changed by weight loss surgery whether we want to immediately admit it or not.  It’s like coming into money; it just makes you more of what you already are.  If you are cheap and you come into a lot of money, you will just have more to hoard.  If you are generous by nature, you will have more to share. It just heightens your personality.

If the first woman is running around until 4:00 AM, that is what she has probably wanted to do but did not have the courage to when heavier. The surgery has freed her to do what she probably has never felt comfortable enough to do. She may have regretted that she missed that wild period in her life. It is selfish and unfortunate especially for her 10 year old whom I am sure gets teased because of this. Hopefully it will grow old for her and she will get back to her senses.

When you have the surgery, you will change also.  Just remember that it will make you more of what you are.  You sound like a sweetheart, so I would bet that all of your changes will be positive. It may very well have the effect on you that it had on me.  Since my surgery, I like myself more.  I have more self esteem and I am admittedly proud of what I have accomplished.  When you like yourself better, you can love those around you so much more.  

It is not fair for your boss to complain about people having weight loss surgery.  He does because he sees only the example of your town “floozy” (gosh I can’t believe I used that word, but the alternative was less attractive). He does not understand that this surgery is treatment for a disease.  You may just want to tell your boss that you are having surgery for a disease and that the surgery was recommended by your PCP.  Tell him that if you do not have the surgery then chances are very great that you will soon develop life threatening conditions.  Tell him that the disease you have is morbid obesity, your surgery is weight loss surgery and that as your closest friends, you will dearly need his and his wife’s support in the coming months. 

As far as telling other people about your surgery, absolutely do not lie.  You live in a small town.  You know as well as I do that there are no secrets in a small town.  And when people soon find out the truth, they will talk about how you lied. You can’t win that way.

Try to hold your head up high.  You will be the person who will change your town’s perception about weight loss surgery because they will see how this surgery can help someone to blossom.  And that will be you.  Be strong and be proud that you have the courage to go through such a life affirming surgery.  Then they will all understand that it is not the surgery that causes such a negative outcome in patients’ personalities.  It is the person themselves.  

My best,


Recipe:  Lettuce Wraps

I have been seeing lettuce wraps on a lot of restaurant menus lately, and decided to give them a try.  They are delicious!  They emphasize a flavorful filling on the inside that is not accompanied by a heavy piece of bread or a tortilla on the outside. Instead the filling is wrapped by a lettuce leaf burrito style.  You can make your own filling by sautéing ground beef or chicken or diced shrimp. Or for vegetarians, use tofu. Combine your mixture with sautéed onions, mushrooms, etc., add a flavorful or spicy sauce such as hoisin sauce or even a teriyaki sauce and wrap the mixture up in a large lettuce leaf.  Serve it like that or with a dipping sauce.  Below is a recipe for a very simple lettuce wrap using beef:

16 large lettuce leaves
1 pound ground beef
1 Tablespoon cooking oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon Hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons minced pickled ginger or use powdered ginger
1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
Asian chili pepper sauce (optional)
1 (8 ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped
1 bunch of green onions, chopped
2 teaspoons Asian (dark) sesame oil

Carefully wash the lettuce leaves and pat dry.

Brown the ground beef in the oil. Drain and set aside.

Sauté the onions until soft and add the garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, ginger, vinegar, and chili pepper sauce to the onion.  Stir

Stir in the chopped water chestnuts, sesame oil and green onions and continue cooking about 2 minutes. Stir in the cooked ground beef.

To serve: Divide the mixture into 16 portions and spoon into the lettuce leaves. Wrap the leaves like a burrito.

Makes 4 servings.  Each serving has 353 calories, 17 grams of carbohydrates and 22 grams of protein.

If you have a recipe that you would like to share in future issues of this newsletter, please send it to me at Barbara@wlscenter.com

Success Story:  
  Bonnie Boudreaux

I want to offer special thanks to Bonnie Boudreaux for sharing her experiences with us. Bonnie has lost 181 pounds in 11 months. That is incredible. Here is her story:

Hi Barbara,
I met you at the Opelousas, Louisiana seminar you spoke at a few months ago Right now I am 11 months post-op. My surgery date was May 9, 2003.  At the time of surgery I weighed 348 pounds, I'm 5'2" and my health was horrible. I had sleep apnea, high blood pressure, hiatal hernia, acid reflux, asthma, allergies, and bad knees requiring knee surgery on both because of lack of cartilage. Thank goodness I was not diabetic.  The RNY surgery was my last chance at having a life again. 

At the time of my surgery I was 50 years old. I was told by my doctor to either have the surgery or face death before I was most likely 60 years old! That was the final straw!  My surgery was May 9, 2003 and it has been a journey that changed my life completely.   I have lost 181 pounds thus far. I now weigh 167 pounds. 

In June I had plastic surgery on my arms and legs to remove excess flapping and hanging skin.  The surgeon removed 4 pounds of skin. There was very little fat, the result of all the exercising I have done. I am still recuperating from the surgery.  When my stitches are removed, I will be able to start exercising again. I am glued and stitched like a teddy bear.  It's amazing to see my arms and legs!  There are no more flapping "wings" on my arms, and my husband says that my legs no longer look like a Shar-Pei puppy!

For those interested, my insurance company considered my plastic surgery cosmetic so they paid nothing.  I'm in the process of appealing, but the $12,000 cost had to be paid up front prior to surgery. That included everything and to me, it was worth it!  I am facing still 1 or 2 more surgeries.  The next will be my stomach and breasts!  The surgeon thinks he will remove 8 to 10 pounds of skin just from my stomach area.  I will work at dropping another 20 pounds before that surgery.  The final surgery will be on my "turkey neck". That’s a small surgery, so either it will be performed at the same time as my stomach/breasts or it will be another surgery later.

Gastric bypass surgery saved my life and gave me back a quality of life that I have not known for at least 35 years!  It's not for everyone. You must be willing to do your part; including looking at food differently and you must be prepared to exercise for life.

Barbara,  thank you for all your support and continuing newsletters and recipes.  I look forward to one day meeting you again!

Bonnie Boudreaux

I love good news.  If you have good news, a success story to share, or inspiration, please send it to me at Barbara@wlscenter.com so that I can include it in future issues.  

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Reprinted from Barbara Thompson’s free e-newsletter featuring helpful information and research material to help patients succeed following weight loss surgery.
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