In Vegas With My Bad Girls

nicole and crystal in vegasLast weekend, I went to Las Vegas for the WLSFA Meet and Greet. The event was my excuse to get together with a lot of people I love from Bariatric Bad Girls Club, who are from all over the United States, Canada, and beyond. Going to Las Vegas is a mixed bag for me. Because I don’t drink alcohol, gamble, smoke, or raucously party…the appeal of Sin City is low. People tend to overindulge and let loose, and being in Vegas becomes an excuse to behave badly.

I arrived at the Las Vegas airport Wednesday afternoon, and my friend Angela picked me up. We had a few hours to kill before more friends arrived, so we went back to Bally’s and Paris. We split a crepe, walked around, did some shopping at Miracle Mile, and recharged.

mon ami gabi steak classiqueWe met a group of friends for dinner at Mon Ami Gabi inParis, which is my favorite restaurant in Las Vegas. I ordered the steak classique, and it was one of the most delicious steaks I’ve ever eaten. The plate was covered in frites, which didn’t really appeal to me. I wish that I’d gotten the creamed mashed cauliflower…I could have eaten a whole dish of that alone.

Next, Angela and I drove back to the airport to pick up Rhiannon, Crystal, and Kara. We had a full car and smiles on our face. I had booked another hotel for the first night to save money, so Crystal and I dropped our bags there and planned to come back after spending time back at Bally’s. We talked, laughed, snapped photos liberally, and enjoyed being together in person (as opposed to just talking online). But as the night got later, I ended up falling asleep for the night with all my luggage a few blocks away.

breakfast in vegasFor breakfast, we left the hotel and went to a diner in a casino off the strip. It’s tough to find an affordable meal in Vegas, and the plentiful buffets do not appeal to weight loss surgery patients (since we can’t get our money’s worth, and it’s a trigger for overeating). If meals are not shared, they are usually just partially eaten. I devoured most of my quiche, but didn’t touch the breakfast potatoes or “fresh” fruit. After breakfast, we went to the grocery store to pick up bottled water, snacks, and foods to put into our in-room fridges.

Crystal and I still had our bags in the other hotel, so Angela drove us over to get them. It was funny that the only times we were in the room were to drop the bags off and to pick them up again. Less than 10 minutes total were spent in the room. We went back to Bally’s and were able to score an early checkin.

by the pool in vegasOnce we were checked into our room, we slathered on our sunblock, put on our swimsuits, and headed to the pool.Being in swimwear is a daunting thing for anyone, especially those who struggle with their weight, but it was comfortable for me for the first time in a very long time. I was proud of my friends who have lost so much weight and were rocking the bikinis (I’ve yet to wear a two-piece in my life). I swam and laid out, and enjoyed being by the pool until I felt my skin start to burn. My fair skin doesn’t last long even with 70 SPF sunblock.

My sister Mary and her fiance Shay live in Vegas, and Crystal and I went to Margaritaville with them to celebrate the end of Shay’s finals. It’s a pretty entertaining place to enjoy a meal and the entertainment.We walked around a bit, and snapped some funny pictures. They drove me down the strip to do some shopping for a dress for the Saturday night gala.

nicoke karaoke at ellis islandWe returned to Bally’s to meet up with the group and go out to a karaoke bar at Ellis Island. I’ve always loved to sing, and my go-to karaoke song for years has been “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips. It seemed appropriate to sing it with this group since Carnie Wilson was the keynote speaker for Saturday night’s gala. I had so much fun rocking out on stage with friends cheering and singing along. My other partners in crime for karaoke were Kara (singing Abba’s “SOS”) and Carolyn (singing Billy Joel’s “Piano Man). Once we left karaoke, many people went out dancing, but I gladly went to my room to sleep. I’ve learned what happens to me when I push myself in Vegas…I end up in the emergency room.

Friday morning was a big BBGC group breakfast at the hotel restaurant. It was fun to see more of my friends who had arrived since the day before. Most people split their meals again, except for a few rogue people who went through the buffet line for contraband bacon. We then went to the conference area for registration for the event. Many people brought before and after weight loss pictures to put on big cardboard stars…and they were posted at the gala.

There weren’t any other official conference activities going on until the evening, so I spent another afternoon with friends at the pool. There was a plastic surgeon who set up a cabana for informal consultations for reconstructive surgery (which is very common after extreme weight loss because of excess skin). We stayed outside for a few hours, then I moved into full shade – I have a tendency to burn, and didn’t want to resemble a tomato. I took a power nap in my room before getting ready for the opening party for the conference – A Night in Paris.

nicole and karaThe BBGC group met by the Eiffel Tower outside of Paris to take a group picture, but I arrived just late enough to miss it. Luckily, lots of fun candid shots were taken. The official party was a little…disorganized. We were told a time that the event would begin, but we had to stay out in the lobby for a good half hour. Once they started letting people in, the food was gone within ten minutes. For a group of bariatric patients, the food choices were not ideal – especially baskets of bread and raw veggies. The location for next year’s event was announced, there was a presentation about the WLSFA grant recipients, and then there was a variety show. I stayed for a few acts (where Jeris totally knocked her vocal performance out of the park) and then left with friends to do my own thing for the evening.

Saturday morning was when I felt like the actual conference started. I talked with some great vendors in the Expo hall, including Celebrate Vitamins, Wellesse, Slimpressions, Big Train, and many more. I attended several sessions, my favorite being by Dr. Yoni Freedhoff about the fallacies of dieting and why so many people fail on “diets.” (For a great recap of that session, read the post on Fatty Fights Back). I attended most of the sessions, had some fun in the photobooth with Beth and Eggy, and then spend a little time at the pool.

bbgc in elevatorSaturday night was the big gala event with Carnie Wilson. After seeing how fancy everyone was dressed, I was glad that Crystal talked me into getting another dress. We did lots of posing and photo ops, and enjoyed being all dolled up. There was a “bling off” beauty pageant where we cheered for the ladies and gents most dazzled up for the night.

The Bariatric Bad Girls Club raised money to donate to the WLSFA to help pay for grants for weight loss surgery patients. I was excited when Beth and Michelle asked me to come up to the stage to present the check with them, and they asked me to announce the donation. I announced the Bariatric Bad Girls Club with pride, and asked for all of the members to please stand up. There was wild applause and cheering as I handed the check over. It was the most exciting moment of the conference yet.

bbgc check rejected at wlsfa

Imagine my surprise when the WLSFA later rejected the donation…for reasons that are still somewhat unclear to me. It felt like a slap in the face to many people. Beth wrote more about the voided donation on her blog, if you’re curious about the details. But let’s skip back to the gala when I was still on cloud 9.

melting mama eggface beauty and the bypass

Finally, it was time to hear from Carnie Wilson. Carnie has been a person I’ve looked up to since I started listening to my first Wilson Phillips cassette tape. I related to her because I loved to sing, but I always felt like I was put in the background because I was the biggest girl. I’ve watched her public struggles with her weight, and have always appreciated her honesty and candor. Her address at the WLSFA was no different. She kicked off her uncomfortable shoes, and talked to us like friends. She revealed her history…struggles, addictions, triumphs, and heartache. She inspired me to make some changes in my personal life on habits that could become destructive to me in the future. And wow….I laughed so much.

nicole bullock and carnie wilson

I was one of the lucky 20 people randomly selected to meet Carnie in person. As I walked up to her, she said “You have the most gorgeous hair! I can’t get over how pretty it is! You’ve gotta tell me your regimen!” We had about 2 minutes to chat, hug, and pose for some pictures. There are some people you meet in life that just radiate warmth. For me, Carnie was one of those people. I felt like she was 100% authentic and cared about me. She even followed me on Twitter later that night.

Sunday was a pretty chill day for me. People checked out of their hotels, had their last meals together, and many flew home. I was certain that I purchased a return flight for Sunday night, but somehow booked myself for 6:00 am Monday morning. When I found out that my friend Kara had been stranded at the airport after delayed and canceled flights, I decided to rent a car and rescue her. We got some lunch, and went to her comped room at South Point. I met up with a group of friends for dinner at Harley Davidson, and then took Crystal to the airport. I had one last visit with Mary and Shay, and headed back to South Point with Kara. Coming home from Vegas was difficult because it required a 3:45 am wake-up, returning the rental car, and getting to the airport. Then, I went straight to work for the day, physically exhausted but emotionally satisfied.

bbgc sexy adminsOnline support has been vital for my weight loss success, but it’s the connections I can nurture in person that make such a difference. While I left the event feeling like I would no longer attend WLSFA events, I am glad that I attended this conference if only to see my friends. I have found who I can rely on for support, and met people who have been inspired by me.

Oh, and if you want to know which weight loss surgery events are on my calendar…I will be attending the Obesity Action Coalition‘s Convention in Phoenix this summer, as well as speaking at FitBloggin in June and ObesityHelp in October.

Wordless Wednesday: Being Silly With Beth and Eggy

Want more fun? Check out Melting Mama and The World According to Eggface

Vegas-Bound for WLSFA

nicole wlsfa vegasSo excited.

Leaving for the airport in an hour to fly to Vegas. It’s time for the WLSFA Meet and Greet. I’m going to be seeing my Bariatric Bad Girls, and so many friends who have been helpful and supportive through the last year as I’ve had surgery and lost so much weight.

Oh, and Carnie Wilson is the keynote speaker. She’s been a bit of an idol of mine since my adolescence. Any of you who have been karaoke-ing with me know this – “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips is my go-to song.

If you’re there, make sure to say hi!

Vegas, baby!
WLSFA header

Wordless Wednesday: Bicycle Crash

bike crash

Hair Loss And Regrowth After Gastric Bypass

dyeing hair after gastric bypassMy body has changed in so many ways in the last 14 months. My whole-body size is different. My skin is different. My nails are different. And my hair is different.

Last summer, I was really freaking out about hair loss. I had been warned before surgery that the hair loss would come, and it started being very noticeable around 4 months post-op. Last summer I was in a bit of an emotional funk, and the hair loss was part of it.  So many things about my body were changing, and I my body felt a little out of control.

I tried to combat the hair loss with upping my daily protein intake and taking biotin pills.  But the damage was already done. Anesthesia from surgery is traumatic for your body, and there’s no way to counteract the way that your hair follicles will handle it. Even with extra protein and biotin, the breakage and hair loss was out of my control for several months. Biotin helps initiate new hair growth…which I noticed on less-desirable places on my body (like my thighs, neck, chin, etc). I felt fuzzy everywhere…but the regrowth on my head finally started.

after dying hair blackNow 14 months post-op, a lot of my regrowth is wispy, but long enough to style in with the rest of my hair. But, what I’ve noticed. I have a regimen with shampoo, conditioner, deep conditioner, leave in conditioner, detangler, and heat protectant. I can make it look pretty good, but it’s not at healthy as it was pre-op.

It’s changed in these ways:

  • Curl: It’s stripped out almost all of my natural curl. If I let it air dry, I’ll get some wave to it, but I think the days of scrunch-and-go are over
  • Texture: My hair feels more coarse, and the regrowth is either baby fine or crazy thick and wiry
  • Thickness: I don’t have thin patches anymore, but I have about 1/3 less hair than before surgery
  • Color: It’s lighter than it was before surgery. It’s gone from being stark raven black to just dark brown. Some areas, like right around my hairline, are very light…with almost a blonde sheen to them. My grays are more wiry and noticeable.

I’m vain, so I think I’ll be coloring my hair from now on.

Wordless Wednesday: Am I That Skinny Girl?

nicole bullock weight loss collage

Finding The Right Swimsuit

old navy bandeau swimsuitEver since I was a little girl, I’ve love to swim.

But ever since I was a little girl, I’ve struggled with my weight.

There have been few times that I’ve been at ease with my body’s shape and size, and it’s tough to get myself into the pool when I’m feeling self-conscious about the way I look in a swimsuit.

I usually go to the pool with a cover-up, and take it off a nanosecond before I plunge into the water. Water distorts the way objects appear, so if I’m underwater, I can just blame the way my body looks on the water.

Last year, I had lost a significant amount of weight by the time “swimsuit season” came around, but I wasn’t really comfortable in my skin. I had a swimsuit that was very tight the year before, and it fit okay the few times I did swim last year. But this year, that suit is way too big. It was especially prevalent to me in San Diego this week – in and out of the water, it was obvious that my suit was too baggy.

inc purple swimsuitI’ve been searching for a new swimsuit for a few weeks, online and offline. I’ve tried on about 35 suits at Macy’s, Dillards, Target, Old Navy, Walmart, Lane Bryant, Avenue, and a few specialty shops. I’ve fallen in love with a few suits online, but they’re expensive enough that I don’t want to front over $100 for a suit that I haven’t tried on. The suit to the right (with the ruffle) I almost bought at Macy’s this week…but I was a little unsure about it because it showed a little more cleavage than I was comfortable with.

Cleavage and swimsuits are a tough thing, especially when you’re busty. You want a suit that gives your chest good definition without exposing too much. I prefer underwire bras, and would love to get a good underwire swimsuit…but I’ve yet to find one that fits me correctly. If it fits the bust, the rest of the suit is usually too small. If it fits the body, my boobs are either swimming in fabric or smashed into stretchy fabric submission. Halters typically work well for me in the chest, but expose too much of my back.

nicole purple swimsuitAnyway, today I finally found a swimsuit I love. It’s the Old Navy Control Max Bandeau swimsuit in Retro Violet. And it was on sale for $29.95…which is a steal compared to some of the other suits I’ve tried on this season.

If you look at the picture of me, you can see it’s the same suit as the airbrushed model above…but it looks a lot different on a “real” woman.  I originally tried on the suit in XXL, but it is sized pretty generously and was baggy in the butt. It fits better as an XL, even though it’s a little tight. I hope it’s fitting just right next month when I go to Vegas for the WLSFA meet and greet.

Have you gone swimsuit shopping yet this year?

Asking For Fashion Advice On Social Media

black and white dress comparisonFor years, black has been my signature color.

Black shirts. Black shirts. Black jackets. Black jewelry. Black swimsuits. Black everything. It’s slimming and versatile, and makes it really easy to blend into the background.

As I’ve been losing weight, I’ve been wearing a lot of bolder colors. And experimenting with wardrobe choices. While my mind always defaults to black when putting an outfit together, I’ve been trying to branch out and wear some other things.

Next week I’ll be in San Diego at Social Media Marketing World, and part of the conference involves an evening cruise. I’ve been looking for a cute dress for the event, and finally found one on my lunch yesterday. The dress doesn’t cover my undergarments, so in my mind it requires an undershirt. Of course, a black undershirt came to mind. But then I thought….I always wear black, I should try something different.

twitter poll on outfitThe black is black, white, and turquoise, so I tried on the dress with both a black and white undershirt. I kinda like how the black straps contrasted with the white undershirt, but the black looked better to me.  I took a picture of both, and posted it on Instagram and Twitter to get some opinions.

I asked “Found a new dress for spring. Poll: black undershirt or white undershirt?” And the answers flooded in. Over 45 answers so far, and everyone said black. But it also turned into all sorts of fashion advice: no undershirt, wear a black cardigan, throw a bolero jacket, etc. But what surprised me was how many people got nasty with their comments about the white top. Honestly, I deleted a few of the comments on Instagram because I felt insulted…people made me feel like I had absolutely no fashion sense. I didn’t expect to feel so self-conscious or hurt.

I guess I should have phrased my question better, because I already knew I’d be going with black, but was curious if the white would work as an alternate option. I always keep a cardigan handy when I wear a short-sleeved dress, and had already packed my cute 3/4 sleeve sequined cardigan to wear for the trip. But after years of limited clothing choices in the largest sizes of the plus-size stores, I’ve been excited to be more daring and try some fashion risks. But after this experience, my self-conscious soul has decided “When in doubt, go with black.”

Moral of the story? Only ask for fashion advice on social media if you’re prepared for the snarky comments too.

Please, no more opinions.


Catching Up With Nicole

Bariatric Bad Girls BraceletsMy, my, my. It’s been a busy few weeks. I’ve had so much going on that I’ve hardly had a chance to do anything blog-related. So consider this my catch-up post. I know it’s April Fools Day, but no jokes in this post!

My Trip to Virginia: My friend Robin from BBGC hosted a party in Virginia, and as soon as I knew it was happening…I had to go. Standby flights worked out in my favor, and I got to spend last weekend with some of my favorite ladies in the WLS community. In this pic: Carla, Crystal, Nicole, Suzanne, Robin, and me….all sporting our pink BBGC bracelets.

I’ve spent so much time talking online with these ladies, and only have seen them in person one other time in Atlanta for the Obesity Help event. I feel so much sisterhood with Bad Girls, and I wish I could spend so much more time with them in person. I’m really looking forward to the WLSFA Meet and Greet in May, as well as the Obesity Action Coalition conference in August.

Reactive Hypoglycemia Update: After 2 months of waiting, I finally got in for my endocrinology appointment at the Utah Diabetes Center. The doctor reviewed my symptoms, food and exercise diaries, and agreed the best thing to do for now is to monitor my blood glucose levels. I got my DIABEETUS testing supplies and it’s been nice to have better marker of my blood sugar levels than just symptoms alone.

I have been holding back at hard exercise at his suggestion, so most of my workouts are less than 30 minutes (and usually just walking). I also met with a nutritionist, who suggested that I eat about 300 more calories a day, with more complex carbohydrates and protein. I’ve only had 2 RH episodes in the past two weeks, which I consider a victory. Unfortunately, my 3-month weight plateau continues…

nicole at instacareBronchitis: I’ve been out of commission with bronchitis for a few days, but I’m starting to be on the mend. I had 10 days of minor symptoms that eventually culminated in pure misery and a visit to Instacare. I’m on day 3 of antibiotics, and spent the majority of Easter weekend asleep in bed. I’m hoping to be feeling good enough to travel to California this week for some time with family and the Social Media Managers World Conference in San Diego next weekend.

The 2013 WLS Awards: Today I found out that I was chosen as the “favorite WLS newbie” in DivaTaunia’s Weight Loss Surgery awards. Thank you to all who voted for me…I’m happy that you have been inspired by me (and felt inclined to vote). Check out the podcast to see which other nominees are rocking the bariatric world.

Swimsuit Season: The weather is warming up, and it’s time to find a swimsuit. For the first time in my life, I’ve actually tried on some 2-piece tankinis. I’m still looking for the right suit, but I’m excited to have SO MANY more options than I did in years past.

April is going to be a busy month, but I’ll try to post on my blog as often as I can. I’ve been trying to test out traveling with and without my laptop. It’s a lot easier to ditch the laptop and bring one less bag with me on the plane…but I can’t do everything I want to on my iPad. After I get back from San Diego, I leave for Type-A Advanced in Philadelphia, where I’ll be speaking on one of the expert panels. Then I’ve got WLSFA in Vegas in May, and FitBloggin’ in Portland in June.


Wordless Wednesday: Monitoring Reactive Hypoglycemia

monitoring reactive hypoglycemia