Author Archives: needlesspounds


There’s a particular part of my body that I’ve been sensitive about forever.  My hands have always been “fat.”  They’ve served me well for the most part.  I have been able to type over 100 words per minute since college.  They did limit me, though, in that I always blamed my inability to learn to play the guitar on my fat fingers.

Fat Fingers

As I was about to get out of the car to go into the gym today, I noticed that the blood vessels in my hands are visible.  This is nothing remarkable, but it does serve as a sign that my hands are getting slimmer.

Skinny Hand

You’ve watched my waistline diminish.  Here, for your viewing pleasure, is a photo journey of my shrinking hands.  Weird, yes, but a part of my inner self-talk each time I post a photo is, “Look at those fat hands.”

Is there a particular part of your body that you look at and approve or disapprove of?  I struggle so much with body image issues since losing nearly 260 pounds.  All of the resources I have come across recommend taking time each day to reflect on the troublesome body parts, reminding yourself just how far you’ve come.  I understand that the body image issues will diminish over time, but I’m impatient!

To see a slideshow of my hands at various stages along my weight loss journey, follow through to the rest of this post.  I understand a hand slideshow isn’t everyone’s cup of tea ūüôā


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Maybe now I can learn to play the guitar?


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Exploding Salmon

I’m relatively new to this whole eating real food thing, but I feel like I’m getting the hang of it.  Then, out of the blue, I learn something new.  Salmon explodes in the microwave.  I knew that aluminum foil, forks, and compact discs provided spectacular shows in the microwave.  I didn’t know that salmon was among the items to watch out for.

Grilled Salmon

What had happened was… I was assembling a quick meal using some refrigerated salmon that I had baked the day before, some green beans, and a scoop of rice.  I popped the plate into the microwave and hit “Reheat.”  While this works beautifully with baked chicken, I heard this remarkably loud POP!  When I checked on the microwave, there was fish all over — on the door, on the ceiling, on the sides.  Rather than be upset about it, I was more fascinated by the experience.

Curious if I had the only piece of explosive fish, I hit the Internet.  Some folks’ salmon exploded while they were cooking it from frozen.  Some folks’ salmon exploded while reheating it from the refrigerator.    Some people actually prefer salmon that’s cooked in the microwave, but they recommend doing so at 30-40% power.

Having lived through the experience, this post’s tale made me laugh out loud (and then double over in pain because my surgery incisions were still a little tender):

For some reason, the fish blew up. You think I’m joking. Even though we had a microwave lid on the plate, there was a ring of fish strands around the microwave that took a bit of cleaning. The entire underside of the lid was covered in shredded fish. When we lifted it off, we could see where entire sections of fish fillet were just gone.

Consider yourself warned.

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Amy’s Chili

The first of the reader recipes is in! ¬†Amy has a recipe for chili that sounds out of this world! ¬†If you’re a fan of chili, give it a try and let me know how it goes! ¬†Amy recommends also using¬†leaving the meat out of this recipe altogether to make it vegetarian or using meat substitute crumbles. Thanks for sharing your recipe, Amy!

If you have a favorite, healthy recipe, consider submitting it to be featured!  Just fill out the recipe donation form!

Recipe Box

Amy’s Chili

Serves 10


  • 1/4 pound ground beef
  • 1/4 pound ground turkey
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup carrots, grated
  • 1 1/2 packages prepared chili seasoning mix, you pick the hotness
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 can black beans
  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks


  1. Brown beef and turkey with onions. Drain.
  2. In a large pot add meat mixture with all of the other ingredients except cinnamon. Stir well.
  3. Simmer until the ingredients have come to the consistency desired.
  4. Add cinnamon sticks and simmer about 10 minutes more to allow the cinnamon to infuse into the chili. Remove cinnamon sticks before serving.


  • Calories: ¬†240
  • Protein: ¬†14g
  • Carbohydrates: ¬†38g
  • Fat: ¬†5g
  • Sodium: ¬†131mg

Amy’s Notes

I make this a lot and get requests for it at work. It is great year round. It is also great to put on a burger if you let the “soup” (liquid) cook down to where it is thicker. Another modification is to hide other veggies in it. For instance in the summer if you have zucchini that you need to use up, grate it and put it in. Chili is an excellent way to hide veggies because the chili seasoning mix is such a strong flavor.

Thanks, Amy!

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8 Myths About the UAMS Weight Loss Program

When I first heard about the UAMS program, I looked on their website for more details.  There were a few patient stories and a promotional video, but the details were scarce.  I asked around, but all I could really find out about the program was what others had heard.  Facts were few and far between, but the myths were abundant.  Since I’ve been in the program for over a year, I have come to know quite a lot about the program, and I’m constantly surprised by the things I hear about the program that simply aren’t true.


#8 “UAMS Program.  That’s that liquid diet.”

The UAMS Program uses Health One Meal Replacements, a nutritionally-designed meal replacement that can be prepared in a variety of ways.  Yes, you can consume it as a shake, but it has a variety of non-liquid forms, too.  I’ve made it into muffins, chips, cookies, pasta, pretzels, chocolate bunnies, and waffles just to name a few.  Making it into a pudding or brownie batter is, by far, my favorite way to consume it.  The UAMS Program is not a liquid diet.

#7 “Parking is impossible at UAMS.”

Parking is not only possible, it’s included in the program costs!  The UAMS Program is located in the outpatient clinic, which is served by Parking Deck 3.  Program participants park on level 3A and walk across a covered skybridge to the clinic.  Parking is validated at check-in for each visit.  I have never had difficulty finding a convenient parking spot.  Even at 448 pounds, the walk from the car to the clinic was never a burden.

#6 “You don’t eat anything but meal replacements for 16 weeks.”

While the duration of the UAMS Program is 16 weeks, fruits and vegetables are introduced during week 6.  As participants gain control over their behaviors and learn to make nutritionally-sound food choices, the types of foods available to the participant increase.  As you approach your goal weight, the Registered Dietitians work with you to incorporate more and more conventional foods until eventually you are consuming no meal replacements at all.

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Never Give Up

Maybe you’ve heard that I fell off the wagon.  Maybe you read my post declaring the end to my journey.  If you know me, you know that one bad weekend isn’t going to deter me from reaching my goals.  I hope you picked up on my April Fool’s prank before becoming too alarmed.  There’s always bad traffic, and as educators we occasionally have some troubling classes.  I’m still on track, though, and no Cadbury Creme eggs were harmed (by me) this Easter.


I want to be serious here for a moment.  Please, please, please don’t ever give up.  In my fantasy meltdown, I started out in a sour mood because it was Monday.  Traffic added extra pressure to the situation.  A bad day at work put me at my breaking point.  A torn pair of pants set me over the edge.  Each of these stressors alone would be manageable.  Taken together, in one day, they sent me out of control.

Tell me this:  How does making poor eating choices “fix” any of the above problems?

“Giving up” only serves to make matters worse.  If I stop going to the gym, I’ll be more stressed when Mondays roll around because my body isn’t in good shape.  While recovering from my gallbladder removal, I noticed a palpable change in my mood which I attribute to not getting physical exercise.

Will relinquishing control over my diet make my pants fit any better?  Hardly!  Letting go will require I go buy an entirely new wardrobe in a size that I just donated to Goodwill.  That’s not going to happen.

Sometimes when we’re emotionally wiped out, food appeals to us.  If there’s one thing that I learned from watching Golden Girls, it’s that cheesecake fixes everything.  Except, it doesn’t.  Cheesecake makes us temporarily numb to the problem.  Solving the problem fixes the problem.   Eating cheesecake just makes more problems.

Let me tell you about my friend, Amy.  When I was in college, Amy was my “Ambien Friend.”  Amy would occasionally get voices in her head that would tell her to do bad things to herself.  Her doctor prescribed Ambien, a sleep aid, and told her to take a particular dose, distract herself until the pills kicked in, and sleep it off.  The pills didn’t “fix” Amy’s voices, but they did keep her from doing harm to herself.  Being Amy’s “Ambien Friend,” I was the person Amy would call when she had taken her Ambien but wasn’t yet asleep.  I talked to her, distracted her, and comforted her on the phone until she was out.

I tell you about Amy because she’s a great model.  She had compulsions to do things that were not in her best interest.  Rather than succumb, Amy had a plan in place for when those compulsions kicked in.  Do you have a plan for when your compulsions kick in?  Do you have a “Cheesecake Crisis” friend who will talk you off the ledge?  You probably don’t, but maybe you should.

Giving up on making healthy food and exercise choices is rarely in your best interest.  I encourage you to make contingency plans now for when that bad day happens.  Know who you’ll call.  Know what you’ll do.  Sometimes pulling the car over and shouting out the stress is necessary.  For me, I get considerable release from my stressors at the gym.  Whatever healthy resolutions work for you, make sure you have plans in place on days when you feel like giving up.

Never give up.

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I Give Up

It’s Monday.  Traffic coming into work was impossible.  My first class today went terribly, and to top it off, I ripped my pants.  I haven’t told you this, but I haven’t been eating right or going to the gym lately.  I gave up shortly after my gallbladder removal.  Easter was a disaster, and there’s no telling how many Cadbury Creme Eggs I’ve consumed in the last 24 hours.  I.  Give.  Up.

Morning Traffic

This is the final stop on my journey.  It has been real.  If you need me, I’ll be at Brown’s Country Kitchen.



Gallbladder Surgery Follow-Up and Answers to Questions

I had a¬†Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal surgery) on March 18, which was a long time coming. ¬†I considered whether removing my gallbladder was necessary, which my doctor said it was, and I chose to do it during my spring break to minimize disruption to my students’ instruction. ¬†I posted about my conditions before, during, and after surgery¬†on my blog and Facebook. ¬†This post is to give you a bit more information about my recovery and to answer some questions I’ve received about having my gallbladder out.

Before Gallbladder Removal

In the final consult before the surgery, the surgeon told me I would be his first or second surgery of the day, and that I should expect to be released to head home before noon. ¬†Several people questioned whether I would be able to walk into the hospital at 7am, undergo general anesthesia, and walk out before noon. ¬†The answer to that question was a resounding, “Yep!” ¬†I was a bit loopy from the meds, but I was able to walk, talk, and make what felt like reasonably-sound decisions. ¬†Accompanied by my “responsible adult,” I walked around the pharmacy and paid for my own prescription immediately following the surgery. ¬†I was even lucid enough to try figure out the best price on the over-the-counter medications.

What can you eat the day of gallbladder removal?

I asked my surgeon that question several times and in a number of different ways. ¬†His answer was always, “I don’t dictate to my patients what they can and cannot eat following gallbladder removal. ¬†Your body will determine what you can and cannot tolerate.” ¬†It turns out, my body was able to handle everything that I threw at it. ¬†Although I ate jello and chicken soup the day of the surgery, I also ended up eating several items that I normally eat, including peanut butter, which was on the list of foods to be wary of. ¬†It’s recommended that folks stay away from foods containing fat because the body has to re-learn how to digest them. ¬†Since my diet is already very low in fat, it was not a problem for me.

How long before you can walk after gallbladder surgery?

I was walking within a couple of hours.  The surgeon recommended I get up and move around periodically to help dissipate the CO2 gas that was left in my abdomen as a result of insufflation.  I was up and walking around at home the day of the surgery with no troubles.  The day after the surgery I spent nearly an hour walking around Kroger doing a little browsing and light shopping.  By the second day after the surgery I was cooking with no difficulties.

How long were you on pain meds after lap chole?

I was written a prescription for Hydrocodone with Acetaminophen¬†(Vicodin), which I was instructed to take 1-2 times per day as necessary. ¬†I’m not a fan of consuming controlled substances, but I’m also not a fan of being in crippling pain. ¬†For the first day, I took one pain pill immediately upon receiving the prescription and another just before going to bed. ¬†The second day, I stopped taking the prescription pain medication and switched to Tylenol, which I took once in the morning, once at lunch, and once before going to bed. ¬†The third day after the surgery I stopped taking all pain medications.

I had 4 incisions — 3 small incisions along my right ribcage and one larger one in my navel. ¬†None of them itched, stung, or burned, but they were tender to the touch. ¬†Inside, my abs were sore from being punctured and sewn back together. ¬†It was evident when I moved, but the pain wasn’t bad enough to cause me to wince or otherwise “make a face.” ¬†The stitches used are self-dissolving sutures, so I don’t have to go back to have them removed. ¬†Steri Strips (strong, sterile packing tape, basically) were used to close the skin, and gauze and water-proof stickers were placed over that. ¬†The water-proof layer was kept on for 2 days, and the Steri Strips came off after 5-7 days. ¬†The incisions are healing nicely.

How much does gallbladder removal cost?

Without insurance, I have no idea how much I would be out. ¬†I’ll be happy to share my out-of-pocket expense information with you. ¬†To see my PCP after my initial gallbladder attack was $25.00. ¬†He sent me for an ultrasound on my gallbladder, which cost about $150 including the charges for having the gallbladder and liver photographed and analyzed. ¬†My PCP called me within an hour of the ultrasound to tell me that the results were inconclusive and that I needed an MRI on my liver and gallbladder. ¬†He didn’t charge for that.

The cost for MRI on my liver and gallbladder was around $250, including the imaging and analysis with insurance, and the results did not come back immediately.  I waited over the weekend to find out the results of the MRI, which cleared me of liver troubles but were still inconclusive on the gallbladder.  This, then, prompted a referral to the specialist, whose initial consult cost $35.00.  Because I took my time deciding whether to have gallbladder removal surgery at all, he required an additional consult at $35.00 before the surgery itself.

The surgeon’s fees for removing my gallbladder were in the $260-$270 territory, but the majority of the cost came from the hospital’s facility fees. ¬†Although I haven’t received the final bill from the hospital, it is anticipated to be in the neighborhood of $750-$850. ¬†Having your gallbladder removed, even with insurance, is not cheap. ¬†Adding in the cost for prescription and over-the-counter aftercare and main medications, the entire affair cost about $1,650.00. ¬†Happy Birthday!

Does having your gallbladder out give you gas, diarrhea, constipation?

Having a laparoscopic surgery of any kind fills your abdomen with gas that naturally works itself out of you over the course of a few days following surgery. ¬†As far as the intestinal tract goes, I had a relatively easy experience. ¬†I was told to initially expect constipation, which is common following anesthesia. ¬†I took an over-the-counter stool softener for the first 3-4 days. ¬†After things got going again, I didn’t have any troubles with diarrhea whatsoever, even though I was eating exactly the same diet I was before having my gallbladder taken out. ¬†Either the amount of fat in my diet is sufficiently low that my digestive tract is able to handle it without concentrated bile, or my liver is just that good. ¬†My stool is¬†slightly softer now than it used to be, but it is nothing uncontrollable, and certainly not diarrhea.

How soon can you drive after gallbladder removal surgery?

My surgeon told me that I could drive as soon as I was off pain medications.  Since I stopped taking prescription pain medications the night of the surgery, I drove the next day.  I will warn you that jarring motions like bumps and sharp turns caused me a bit of discomfort that first day.  I was careful when turning into parking lots.  The pain of transferring a car title at the DMV was worse than the pain of driving, however.

When can you return to work after having a gallbladder taken out?

I would have been able to return to work the next day. ¬†The advice the surgeon gave me was, “You’ll turn the corner around the third day.” ¬†My surgery was early Monday morning. ¬†I could have worked a half day on Tuesday, a full day Wednesday, and I would have been comfortable teaching on Thursday. ¬†I would have given manual labor at least a week.

How long should you wait to exercise after gallbladder surgery?

I took a baby-steps approach to this one. ¬†My surgeon recommended two weeks. ¬†I started walking the day of the surgery. ¬†I walked at least an hour the day after. ¬†I drove, walked, and carried some items the following day. ¬†I built up my strength and endurance on a day-by-day basis. ¬†Friday or Saturday night (I don’t remember which), I actually went out to a bar and socialized until an unreasonably late hour. ¬†Seven days after my surgery I returned to the elliptical machine at the gym for 30 minutes. ¬†On the 8th day, I did 45 minutes. ¬†On the 9th day, I did an hour. ¬†On the 11th or 12th day I did my regular workout with 30 minutes of cardio and a resistance routine. ¬†I even did core exercises, which turned out not to be painful at all.

Were there any complications at all?

I had two attacks that I refer to as phantom gallbladder attacks the weekend after the surgery. ¬†I had the same gas-like pains in the right side of my body. ¬†Both of these attacks came at night when I was in the bed, and both passed quickly. ¬†One lasted no more than 5 minutes, and the other was about 20 minutes. ¬†I read online that if sludge or stones were left, these pains could simply be those things working out of my system. ¬†My follow-up appointment with the surgeon is coming up in about a week, and I plan to discuss this with him. ¬†Since I haven’t had any issues in a week, I’m confident that the matter has resolved itself.

Did you experience weight gain after gallbladder removal?

The morning of the surgery, I weighed myself at home.  The next morning, I weighed myself expecting to weigh just a few ounces less.  I mean, parts had been removed, right?  I weighed 6-7 pounds more.  Googling this, I read that receiving intravenous fluids during a surgery often caused a weight gain of 5-10 pounds.  Coupled with swelling, this explained my weight gain.  This weight did go away within a week, and by the time I returned to the weight loss clinic to weigh, I was down about a pound for the week, and 2.2 pounds for the two-week period of the surgery and the week following it.  Having my gallbladder removed has not caused difficulty in continuing to lose weight.

What other questions do you have about my surgery, my current condition, or anything else? ¬†I’m pretty much an open book, and I’m happy to share what I can to help calm any fears or doubt you might have about a similar situation. ¬†I know I appreciated the kind words and comments I received on Facebook and privately from those of you who had already been through this procedure before.

Thanks for being on this journey with me!

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The Great Easter Egg Hunt 2013

Happy Easter, everyone! For the next 24 hours, you may see some easter eggs tucked away in the archives and information pages of the Needless Pounds Blog.  By clicking on any Easter Eggs you find, you will be sent to a form that you can fill out to be entered into a drawing for one of several prizes.  Each Easter Egg links to a unique form for a separate prize, so go out and hunt down as many as you can find!


The Prizes

  • Text Messages from Daniel — For a week, Daniel will periodically send you text messages checking in with you, providing motivational messages, and sending you links to informative resources.
  • Healthy Steps Starch Server Specially sized spoon holds 1 serving. Engraved serving guide Stylish handle with metal accent. Top rack dishwasher safe. BPA-free.
  • Healthy Steps Protein Server Specially sized spatula acts a one serving guide for 3oz of protein. Engraved serving guide. Stylish handle with metal accent. Top rack dishwasher safe. BPA-free.
  • Motivational Phone Call from Daniel — Daniel will give you a call to discuss weight loss motivation.  Ask him anything.  Tell him anything.  “It’s your dime,” although he will actually being the one placing the call ūüôā
  • Become a Featured Reader — Have your name, photo, and bio featured at the top of Needless Pounds for a week!  Share whatever you like about yourself.  You’ll be the first thing readers see when they visit the site.
  • 17 Calorie Hot Chocolate Mix — Daniel has been raving about his mix of Cocoa, Splenda, Cinnamon, and Vanilla Extract.  You have a chance to win a hand-packed jar of this mixture.  Just add hot water and your own extracts.
  • You Brew My Tea Mystery Gift — Katie from You Brew My Tea has offered to give away something fabulous.  We just haven’t decided what that is yet.  We promise it will be fabulous, though!
  • Amateur Recipe Analysis — If you are curious how many calories, grams of fat, or vitamins and minerals are in a particular recipe, Daniel will provide an amateur analysis.  He will run any recipe you choose through the Fit Watch Recipe Analyzer and generate a nutrition facts label for you.
  • Choose A Topic — The winner of this prize will have an opportunity to choose any topic relevant to the Needless Pounds community and Daniel will write about it.
  • Wall of Fame — If you collect all of the Easter Eggs within the contest period, your name and a motivational message of your choosing will be listed on the Great Easter Egg Hunt 2013 Wall of Fame.  There are at least 9 eggs out there.  Go find them all!

The Rules

  • How to enter: This contest begins at 12:01 A.M. central time (CT) on March 31, 2013, and ends at 11:59 P.M. CT on March 31, 2013. To enter, locate the graphics of Easter Eggs hidden on the Needless Pounds Blog, click them, and submit the required elements on the forms linked to each graphic.  Limit one entry per person or e-mail account. Sponsor is not responsible for lost, late, illegible, or incomplete entries or entries not received for any reason.
  • Eligibility: Open to legal residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia, age 19 or older at time of entry (‚ÄúEntrant(s)‚ÄĚ). Void where prohibited by law. Employees of Needless Pounds LLC and its promotional partners and their respective parents, affiliates, and subsidiaries and participating advertising and promotion agencies (including members of their immediate family and/or those living in the same household of each such employee) are not eligible.
  • Prize description: Prizes are described above.  The prizes are awarded without warranty, express or implied, of any kind. THE PRIZES ARE NOT TRANSFERABLE.
  • Conditions of participation: No transfer, assignment, or substitution of a prize permitted, except Needless Pounds LLC reserves the right to substitute prize (or prize component) for an item of equal or greater value at Sponsor‚Äôs sole discretion. All federal, state, and local laws and regulations apply. Entrants agree to be bound by the terms of these Official Rules and by the decisions of Sponsor, which are final and binding on all matters pertaining to this Contest.  By entering and/or accepting prize, Entrants and Winners agree to hold and assign Sponsor and its promotional partners, directors, officers, and employees harmless for liability, damages, or claims for injury or loss to any person or property, relating to, in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, participation in this Contest, the acceptance and/or subsequent use or misuse or condition of any of the prizes awarded, or claims based on publicity rights, defamation, or invasion of privacy. False or deceptive entries or acts will render the Entrant ineligible. Sponsor is not responsible for any typographical or other error in the printing of the offer, administration of the contest, or in the announcement of the prize.
  • Internet: Sponsor is not responsible for lost or late entries nor for electronic-transmission errors resulting in omission, interruption, deletion, defect, delay in operations or transmission, theft or destruction or unauthorized access to or alterations of entry materials, or for technical, network, telephone-equipment, electronic, computer, hardware, or software malfunctions or limitations of any kind.  If there is a dispute as to the identity of the Entrant, the prize will be awarded to the authorized account holder of the e-mail address. The ‚Äúauthorized account holder‚ÄĚ is defined as the natural person to whom the e-mail address is assigned.
  • Random Drawings:  For each prize, the entrants will be assigned a number.  A random number generator will be used to select a winning number, and the entrant who was assigned that number will be considered the winner.  The same contestant may win more than one prize.  Odds of winning depend on the number of entrants for each prize.
  • Winner‚Äôs list: For list of names of prize winners, available after April 1, 2013, contact
  • Sponsor: The Sponsor of this Contest is Needless Pounds LLC, PO Box 344, Mayflower, AR, 72106.

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