OH Members: Blogging All The Way

Interview Collection:
Sarahlicious OH Member Support Team

Beyond the message boards, before & after photos and articles, member blogs here on ObesityHelp are constant sources of inspiration and information, as well as a bit of comic relief. Blogs provide the perfect platform to interact with others and share a variety of information including, personal stories, product reviews, recipes, photos and your favorite You Tube video clips. The collective knowledge and range of experiences found within the member blogs on ObesityHelp is one of the most valuable weight loss surgery resources on the web.
We recently interviewed several ObesityHelp members who maintain active blogs on and off ObesityHelp. We asked them general questions about their experience blogging, why they do it and asked them to provide tips for those interested in starting their own weight loss surgery blog. Check out this series of interviews below.
Username: mdvicari
How long have you had a blog? My weight loss surgery blog www.theworldaccordingtoeggface.com was created a few months before my surgery in 2006. So going on four years.
Why do you blog?

At first, I started the blog to keep my friends and family updated on my weight loss progress, pictures, things I ate, and wow moments but it is much more than that to me now. Writing the blog everyday helps me keep my head in the game. It helps me stay accountable to my lifestyle changes. But most importantly, it gives me an outlet to express the emotional part of this journey. It also helps dispel some misconceptions about life after weight loss surgery to non-ops that read it and that is always a good thing.
What type of response have your received from your readers?

An amazing response. Thousands of people a day from all over the world visit my blog. I get emails and comments from others on this journey who have related to a story or enjoyed a recipe. I never feel alone in this. It's awesome. 
The other day I opened my blog email to find a letter from a reader sharing how she had been scared about having weight loss surgery and having to give up all her favorite foods but then saw some adaptations of her favorites on my blog and felt at peace with her decision. Letters like that make me glad I decided to blog my journey.
What tips do you have for the WLS community interested in blogging about their journey?

For safety reasons, don't share anything that you wouldn't want the whole world to potentially read. They don't call it the world wide web for nothing. There are ways to protect who views certain things but the best way to protect what you don't want to share is not to share it.
Don't worry about your skills as a writer or proper punctuation. If I worried about sentence structure or dangling participles, I'd probably never publish a blog entry. Just write like you are talking to friends or yourself and don't worry about whether you should have used a comma or a semi-colon. Your junior high school English teacher won't be reading it... oh wait, maybe she will.
Username: MickATL
How long have you had a blog? I have been blogging since I started my journey in January 2007. I started blogging to have a chronicle of my journey.
Why do you blog?

My blog captures the good, the bad and the ugly of this process. Successes and failures. I think capturing what I'm doing that is working and not working helps me learn from my mistakes.

What type of response have you received from your readers?

I never thought people read my blog. I kept it for myself. Like I said, to capture what I was doing and to have it for my own reference. Then I added a hit counter. Now it's up past 14,600. Obviously, people look at it. The response has been very positive. People appreciate my honesty and my simple approach to life after WLS. I try to keep it simple: measure portions, make healthy eating choices, exercise regularly, get enough water, take a multi-vitamin daily, don't drink while eating and wait an hour after meals to drink. Of course, my surgery doesn't do my grocery shopping, order healthy off a menu, make me exercise or measure my portions. All of these and many other decisions fall on my shoulders. Having this tool makes those choices easier everyday and knowing people get something out of my blog, is a great thing.

What tips do you have for the WLS community interested in blogging about their journey?

Anyone who is thinking about blogging should just get started. The key to a successful blog is regular posting. I also think another thing that people on OH like is reading something that is more of a diary than something written for readers. I don't blog for other people. I write for myself. If people read it, great. If they don't, that's okay too. I capture my experiences, my meals, my successes and failures. If someone just starting out can get a sense of what life with WLS is like, fantastic. Maybe they'll make a more informed decision. If someone is struggling with their surgery, maybe they'll put in a search word that will bring up a post I've made and they'll find an answer or a similar situation I've been through. The more people on OH that do the same, the larger the body of knowledge we compile for the next group of WLS patients so they don't struggle like we did.
Username: MeltingMamaish
How long have you had a blog? I started blogging very casually back in 2003 and I had my Roux En Y gastric bypass in April of 2004 and now its 2010?  So, what, more than six years?  Blogging took on a life of it's own in about 2008 when I became side-lined with health issues and was at home full-time.  I made my blog my job since I could not go to work.   
 Why do you blog?
Because otherwise I would implode.  
Really, I had to write things down during the process of my weight loss surgery journey because people in "real life" did not need to or want to always hear about the little details or idiosyncrasies of life with gastric bypass.  People who CHOOSE to read a blog about life after gastric bypass are looking for those little details or poop stories.
For me, if I did not blog, I would drive the people in my life absolutely bat-shi$.
 What type of response have you received from your readers?
When I write, I sort of keep it in mind that "nobody is reading this" and although I "know" that 1,500 sets of eyes might actually see a blog post each day, I try not to censor myself.  That way, my readers respond honestly to me.  I get supportive comments and emails and rarely do I get any negative feedback, which is not what I expect considering that I am not always a beam of sunshine myself. 
What tips do you have for the WLS community interested in blogging about their journey?

Start early, write often.  Even if you never publish a damn thing, writing can be so therapeutic and simply getting things out of your mind and onto the screen can release the power the thoughts have over you. 

One of my biggest regrets is not publishing my pre-operative journey stories and early post-operative thoughts. There is so much to be learned in that time and it is such a brief moment in your journey, compared to years later, so very different.  Get writing.
Username: aullberg
How long have you had a blog? I started blogging in November of '09 after MeltingMama told me I would.  Please note -- not that I should, but that I *would*.

Why do you blog?

I blog because there seems to be a need for more info about post-surgical supplementation information.  I also put information about obesity, post-op pregnancy and general things I find interesting related to our surgically-altered guts there.  I've also put a few of my thoughts related to the journey down as well.  I do it to help out the community as much as possible as we didn't have as many resources out when I was early-out.

What type of response have you received from your readers?

I've had a really positive response so far.  It's still a very young blog in terms of age and readership, but I think the reaction has been very good overall.  I still have quite a bit I want to do for the blog to improve, but it's getting there slowly.

What tips do you have for the WLS community interested in blogging about their journey?

Tips?  I'm supposed to have tips?  I guess my tips would be to be yourself.  Don't be something you aren't just for the sake of a blog.  People who are continually happy or perfect all the time are liars.
Username: Sarahlicious
How long have you had a blog? I will be seven years post-op this month and I’ve been documenting my WLS journey on ObesityHelp for a little over seven years. A couple of years ago, when I was going through the appeals process for my brachioplasty, I started a blog called FlyingSarah. Once I won that battle and life got a bit busy, I stopped. Last year, I started an insurance blog because I wanted to share helpful information and after taking a website publishing course I realized I should stick with the ease of a blog. This past January I created my Born2lbFat blog which is more of an extension of my ObesityHelp blog because it’s just about my daily life.
Why do you blog?

I’ve always been told I talk too much and tell a lot of stories, so I guess I’m just changing with technology and putting it all on the Internet. But seriously, I have found so much information that has helped and guided me through my journey and I felt I had something to share that others might find helpful and sometimes entertaining. Specifically, I have lymphedema and lipedema which are rare conditions. Many times doctors do not even know much about these conditions and I remember a time I felt like I must be the only person suffering, so I share my story and my experience so that others might come across it one day and know they are not alone and that there is treatment and the ability to live a “normal? life while managing the conditions.
What type of response have you received from your readers?

I have always gotten a positive response from the ObesityHelp community, especially after my recent post about Lymphedema Treatment Legislation. I have to say the response I’ve gotten from my non-WLS friends from high school and college has been a surprise. First, I was surprised they read my blog and second they told me they “had no idea? I had dealt with so much during or since the time they had known me. The most interesting response occurred when I went to an Occupational Therapy appointment and my therapist asked if I would talk to another patient and his wife about getting insurance coverage for compression garments. As soon as the wife saw me she said “I knew it was you, honey it’s Flying Sarah."  As it turns out she had actually e-mailed me asking information about my lymphedema doctor. 
What tips do you have for the WLS community interested in blogging about their journey?

I was an English major in college and was taught to “write what you know?. And that goes for writing novels or blogs. Write for yourself and do what you want with feedback. I’ve learned during the recent health reform process that many people do not share my views, however it’s MY blog so I write what I want. Also, every so often, go back and read some of your old blog entries. Every year on my WLS anniversary I like to go back and re-read what I had written during that time, especially my goals, hopes and dreams for the future healthier me.
Username: pwsammy
How long have you had a blog? I started my blog on the day I officially decided to have WLS. August 5, 2006. It took me 15 months to navigate through the insurance approval process and I had my RNY in November 2007. I’ve documented every step of the way over the past 3.5 years - the good, the bad and the ugly.

Why do you blog?

Before I started my blog I had been keeping a scrapbook album documenting my weight loss attempts over the previous two years. I wanted to continue that documentation, but realized I wasn’t capturing the day- to-day life in a scrapbook album – only creating summary pages about once a month. I wanted something that was more immediate and easier to update on a regular basis, so the blog was born. 
In the simplest terms, my blog is mostly a “dumping ground". (No, not that kind of "dumping".) It’s a place for me to dump my thoughts and feelings about whatever I happen to be facing in my life – related to WLS or anything else. It is a place for me to write down my goals and document my progress toward achieving those goals. A place for me to write down the recipes I create so I don't forget them next time I want to cook it. A place for me to capture the research I do about various WLS topics (I’m a research fanatic) and be able to refer back to that information when I need it again. And as I became more involved on the OH Forums, my blog became a place for me to keep some of the forum responses I wrote to other WLS’ers who ask questions or ask about experiences others have been through. Sometimes when we answer someone else’s questions on the forum, we discover new things about ourselves in the process – so forum posts often wiggle their way into my brain and demand more thought and exploration and the blog becomes a good dumping ground for that too.
In a recent blog post I announced my intention to build up the resource side of things on my blog. When I was a newbi, I received so much help and guidance from the veterans and I want to pay it forward to those coming after me. Before I had WLS, I had to go through the 12 month diet documentation for insurance. During those long 12 months, I had nothing else to do except research WLS and every aspect of my life after surgery. As I said, I’m a research fanatic and I have a lot of information that I’d like to get up on the blog for others to access. Also, as the leader of the peer-based WLS support group in my city for the past 18 months, I have amassed numerous lesson plans and presentations for our monthly meetings. I plan to organize that information in the coming months and create a series of blog posts that will become a resource to other support group leaders who need ideas for meeting topics of their own.
Having a blog that documents my WLS has been essential to me in the past several months while the scale hasn’t been moving. It’s easy to get discouraged when we can’t see huge progress being made every single day – but looking back at old blogs posts helps me realize how far I’ve come and how much I’ve achieved.  Without my documentation along the way, I imagine I'd be mired in discouragement because my body is not doing what I expect it to do.  But seeing my successes in writing makes me realize that even if the scale never moves again,  I am already an amazing success story!

What type of response have you received from your readers?

First and foremost, the blog is for ME and a place where I can be honest with myself and be accountable to my own goals simply by saying things “out loud". Therefore, it often surprises me when I realize how many readers I actually have. And as a result of having readers, there are times when my blog is less about me and more about them. I’ll answer their questions or share information I have based on what they want to hear. And over time, I feel that my blog has become a balance of the two purposes. A place for me to be honest with myself and also a place for me to help guide others as they navigate the road through WLS.
Besides the support group I lead once a month, I also attend two other support groups for WLS patients. Word got around about my blog and the response has been tremendous.  I was asked so many times to write down my website address that I eventually just had business cards printed to hand out. My readers inspire me to be a better person, to achieve my goals and to stay on track – they all think I’m the one giving up all the inspiration, but I don’t think they realize how much strength I draw from them.
One other response I’ve received (and am so flattered about) is from my surgeon’s office. The director of the bariatric clinic got her hands on a series of articles I wrote called “The RNY Rules? – and promptly distributed copies to the entire staff at the clinic; nurses, receptionist, nutritionists, PAs and surgeons alike. Talk about a Wow Moment! She also keeps copies of the articles in the waiting room for other patients to read.  
What tips do you have for the WLS community interested in blogging about their journey?

The WLS journey is going to change your life. And those changes are going to be happening faster than you can comprehend it all. It’s the ride of your life and you want to remember every minute of it. But the only way to remember it all is to document it. It doesn’t matter how you do it, just be sure you’re doing it.   It can be on a public blog like I’ve done, or you can make a private blog if you don’t want to share it with the world. Even a paper journal and pen will do the trick. But the process of documenting the journey, the changes, the milestones, the struggles, the triumphs – that’s what is so important. Some specific tips:
1. Be honest. Be real. Be yourself. WLS is not the “easy way? and those who live through it know it’s not easy. Don’t sugar-coat the process for those who are reading about it. If you have a bad day, write about it. If you’re struggling with following the rules or battling old habits and food demons or transfer addictions, write about it. Admit to yourself (and your readers) when you’re going through a rebellious phase and document what steps you’re going to take to dig yourself out. Writing about the good days and the goals achieved and shrinking sizes is easy and will flow naturally as we want to share our triumphs. Writing about the really hard stuff is more difficult (but necessary) as we learn from the struggles and become stronger in the process.   Above all else, we have to be honest with ourselves. Who cares about our readers, we’re not writing this journal for them. We’re writing it for ourselves, so lying on your blog is just lying to yourself. Ok, we do care about our readers, but we have to first remember that this documentation is for ourselves. Being honest, open and real is essential as we transform our lives through WLS. 
2. Start a Wow Moment List. Right after surgery when we’re losing weight rapidly we’ll experience little moments when we are wow’d by our success. By starting a list and adding to it as these things happen, we’ll be able to look back and remember how far we’ve come. That moment when we move the driver’s seat forward a notch in the car, that moment when we run into an old friend and they don’t recognize us, that moment when we cross our legs for the first time or bend over to tie our shoes, that moment when we ride a roller coaster or realize we don’t need to turn sideways to fit through a tight space.  Those moments are going to be important to look back on when the scale stops moving as quickly or when we get discouraged along the way. We have to have a way to remember how much we have achieved.
3. Take Pictures. During my first year post-op I started a project where I took a photo of my face every day for a whole year. Watching the transformation through pictures was awesome. But more importantly, it has helped me with the mental adjustment of still seeing the fat girl in the mirror. We all struggle with “not seeing? the weight loss in ourselves and it takes a long time for our brain to catch up with the image in the mirror (my psych says it takes 5 years) … so photos help us see the real changes we’ve made. Plus, readers love photos! 
4. Keep Writing.  At the beginning of our WLS journey, we are enthusiastic about sharing every aspect of our new lives, then slowly real-life creeps in and we begin to neglect our blog posting. I’ve noticed that when people stop writing on their blogs, this is often when they begin to slip back into the old habits of the morbidly obese self and less accountability gives them the freedom to wiggle around the rules little by little. It’s understandable that people who are further out from surgery will post less than a newbie, but you have to keep writing. The WLS journey doesn’t end when we hit our goal weight or when the scale stops moving. This is a lifelong journey and sharing our day-to-day experiences as long-term veterans will continue to help the newbies coming behind us as well as keep our focus on the rules we follow for life. If you do decide to stop writing on the blog (for whatever reason) don’t just abandon it. The least you can do is say goodbye to your readers and let them know that you’ll leave your journal online for them to read.
5. Have fun!  Be silly if that’s your personality. Ramble on about nonsense if that’s how you feel that day. Set fun goals and track your progress. Invite readers to get involved in your antics. Let your personality shine through. Enjoy the venue and most of all, have fun!
Username: hercules411
How long have you had a blog?  Why do you blog? My blog is an extension of a written food journal I began even before I knew about the Obesity Help website.  During the first WLS workshop at the clinic, the nurse suggested that I not only measure and record my daily intake of food, but that I also keep a journal of my feelings and also to record the challenges I faced daily.  She said that people who do so seem to have more success.  I weighed about 450 pounds at the time and needed to lose weight to make the outcome of my RNY safer and hopefully qualify for laparoscopic instead of open surgery.  So last April, I began my journal right away. During the subsequent five months, I religiously logged my eating. I only wrote down my feelings occasionally.

In August, a psychologist recommended that I attend support groups to help me on my journey. I told her that I lived about an hour or more away from the clinic and had to work during the times that that support group met.  She then told me about the OH website.  Even though my surgery was still a month away, I logged on to OH and began reading the posts on the message board and other member's blogs. They were full of useful information about the challenges that WLS patients had faced at all stages of their journeys.  OH also offered a convenient way for me to put my own experience into writing. For myself, I wanted a written record of my trials and tribulations during this lifelong process because I never want to forget what it was like to weigh more than twice as much as most men.  It wasn't just health issues that I wanted to record. I also don't want to forget how hard it was to buy clothing, how impossible it was for me to fit into theatre seats, office chairs and even my own car. 

In addition, I feel that my journal keeps me honest about which foods, how much food and when I was putting food into my body. My written journal and subsequent blog helped me reduce my weight from about 450 pounds to 324 pounds by the day I had laparoscopic surgery in late September.

What type of response have you received from your readers?

There is another reason I try to blog daily.  I feel that my weight loss surgery is a gift. I feel a need to give back some of what I have been given.  I don't pretend to think that everyone who reads my blog either shares or will necessarily benefit from my experiences.  But as I have learned from the good people who also share on OH, everyone has a slightly different journey.  If there is even one person who reads my blog and feels some kinship or gets some solace from what I write, then it's worth the time blogging. 

What tips do you have for the WLS community interested in blogging about their journey?

The one tip I have for bloggers is not to be afraid. I know that many on the message boards would like to preserve their anonymity. That's fine. Don't post your real name, picture or other information you wish to keep private.  But know that what you write may not only help you, but others as well. I have received not only hundreds of positive responses to my blogs, but lots of great advice too.  The suggestions from readers have not only given me great ideas on coping with the challenges, but has also acted as a cyber support group that meets 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Good luck on your journey.
Username: chanakurtz
How long have you had a blog? I have been blogging since July. I had my surgery on July 31st 2009 so I think that's when my journey here on OH began.
Why do you blog?

I blog for several reasons. The first reason is so that I can go back and see the results of the progress of my RNY.  I also blog to encourage others and make them aware of how different our journeys are. Lastly, I blog for a sense of release and revelation.  I love to write!

What type of response have you received from your readers?

I have gotten so much support and many responses from people. Therefore, continue to blog.  I have been honest in all my blogs as it pertains to my journey and people appreciate that.  It's because of all the positive responses that I continue to blog and do so well.

What tips do you have for the WLS community interested in blogging about their journey?

I would encourage all to just be honest and not give people who are on this journey a since of false hope.  I would encourage blogging to keep up with the success of your WLS....it keeps me accountable as well.
Username: pandoralsu
How long have you had a blog? I've kept an active personal blog for the last eight years on Livejournal.com and started a blog here on OH and at Blogspot/my website www.nanfit.com for the last year and three months. 

Why do you blog?

I blog to vent my frustrations, keep track of my weight loss, keep track of my recipes and journal events like the Crescent City Classic10k. (Which is next weekend and this will be my eighth year! )
What type of response have you received from your readers?

I usually get comments from friends, encouragement and support. I've also had people find my blog and add me as a friend on Facebook and OH.

What tips do you have for the WLS community interested in blogging about their journey?

Try to blog as frequently as possible.  Keep track of your foods there. I don't on my blog but I do on Sparkpeople.com.  Write about the changes you feel, see and how your eating habits change.  Don't just blog about the good, it helps people to read about the experiences that are not so good or downright bad things going on too.  

In the coming weeks we will be launching a new site redesign that will include a featured member blog section on the new ObesityHelp homepage. If you are already an active blogger here at ObesityHelp or interested in starting a blog and would like your blog to be included on the new homepage, leave us a comment below and we will check out your blog for consideration.