Losing It! The Beginning.


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My name is Desiree Dunning. I’m a wife, mother, photographer, and food writer. I am 45 and weighed 208 pounds at the beginning of my journey.

Do I have issue with my weight? You bet! The fact is that 68.8% of Americans are overweight or obese. Therefore, most of us have dealt with weight loss issues such as failed diets, health problems and a decreased quality of life.

One of the things that people are most uncomfortable discussing is their weight and the things that they have put their body through to maintain a normal weight. Most of my friends were unaware of this, but I had LapBand surgery nine years ago, that resulted in me vomiting on a regular basis. Therefore, I plan to have it removed and converted to Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy (VSG). What, you may ask, is a VSG? It’s a surgery in which 80% of your stomach is removed and you are left with a stomach that resembles the sleeve on your shirt.

There are some serious and not so fun side effects of sleeve surgery that are enough to give you nightmares! They include: vitamin deficiencies, hormonal surges, vomiting, diarrhea, Dumping Syndrome, constipation, hair loss, gallstones, kidney stones, and even death.

Why, you might ask, would I put my body and emotions through such a difficult and permanent change? Because I went through nine reconstructive surgeries on my feet and knees during a two-and-a-half-year period, which resulted in very painful arthritis. My doctor advised that the only way to naturally alleviate my pain permanently was loose at least sixty pounds.

There are some things that I made a commitment to give up upon my surgery. They included coffee, Coke Zero (all carbonation), straws, and sugar. Some say weight loss surgery (WLS) is the easy way out. But the reality is that WLS is nothing more than a tool. Furthermore, anyone who has had WLS will tell you that it’s damn hard!

As per the requirements of surgery, I was required to meet with a Nutritionist, Psychologist, and my Internist for blood work and an EKG. The meeting that had the most impact on me was the Nutritionist who will hereafter be known at the “NUT”. There were good and bad aspects to the meeting. My NUT gave me great information about the pre-operative diet and nutrition following my sleeve surgery. One of the things he emphasized with me was the importance of not drinking my calories. My liquid habits included sweet tea, lemonade and skim milk. In response to this information, my NUT told me that he hoped that I developed lactose intolerance, which is a possible side effect of the surgery. He also informed me that I sounded like a heroin addict when I talked about food, which really pissed me off! Who knows if he was right! But whatever quality that is, it’s probably what makes me a good food writer.

Before I get into what happened with the diet and my weight loss, I have a confession to make… On the eve of my pre-operative diet, I decided to have a food funeral at Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen in Pidgeon Forge, Tennessee. Apparently, it’s very common for weight loss surgery patients to have a food funeral, which is a feast that focuses on foods that they should only eat in moderation or not at all post-surgery. Paula Deen’s kitchen served the meal “family style”, which gave us all the opportunity to eat a wide variety of dishes. I had a taste of fried chicken, spare ribs, chicken & dumplings, squash casserole, mashed potatoes, salad, green beans, hoecakes, biscuits, and Ooey Gooey Cake. The food was amazing!

We came home from vacation and it was time to buckle down and lose sixty pounds!

So, there I was, a professional foodie, who was two weeks out from weight loss surgery. And it was time to start my pre-operative diet. Now the important thing to remember here is that I have never believed in diets! I think they are destructive and counterproductive because I watched my Mom constantly go from one diet to the next. Such is the life of a former model and Texas beauty queen. But it was never a lifestyle that I embraced! And honestly, I never had a real weight problem until I was in my twenties. Back then, I could keep it under control by working out. Not so much after I turned thirty.

Have you ever been subjected to a difficult diet? In my case, the answer was never! But I was in for a rude awakening once I focused in on the diet that my doctor and nutritionist prescribed. The diet was high-protein, extremely low carb, with absolutely no sugar! The diet was designed to shrink my liver so the doctor could operate laparoscopically.

I had to get creative to eat well during my medically required “diet”. If I thought that my sweet tea,  lemonade, milk, and Coke Zero habits were going to be a hard to break, I was unprepared for the loss of carbohydrates! I never knew what tired was until they took my carbs away!

For those of you who are determined to do a low carb diet, here are a few of the solutions and recipes that I came up with during my medically supervised diet. In fact, these are perfectly healthy recipes if you also eat some carbohydrates!


Spray your pan with non-stick cooking spray and sauté one cup of baby spinach, half a cup of fresh mushrooms, four ounces of turkey sausage, and Paula Deen’s House Seasoning. This is a versatile recipe and more than I could eat in one sitting.


Four ounces of chicken breast pan fried in one tablespoon of olive oil. Add one cup of frozen stir fry mix and cook until steamed through. Season with garlic, ginger and low sodium soy sauce.


I was usually juggling my diet with the need to fix my family a healthy dinner. Therefore, I would prepare a meat, vegetable and starch for my family. Then I would only choose to eat the meat and vegetable. For example, one night I made pork tenderloin with a dry rub, broccoli florets, and scalloped potatoes. I only ate the pork tenderloin and broccoli. Another example was to make spaghetti sauce and substitute spaghetti with spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles.

I did this diet for thirteen days. On the fourteenth day of my diet, I was instructed to drink clear liquids only! My diet consisted of sugar-free Jell-O, sugar-free popsicles, unsweetened tea, Crystal Light, and broth. Now just so we are clear, I came up with a recipe for sugar-free sweet tea. I combined a third cup of Splenda and two quarts of caffeine free tea. I also found that I could make lemonade with one cup of Splenda, one cup of lemon juice and about two quarts of water. It made me feel like I wasn’t required to revoke my southern woman card.

During the second day of my medically required diet, I found out that I had an assignment at Veracruz All Natural in Round Rock, Texas. This was a wonderful Interior Mexican restaurant that focused on fresh tacos, salsas, quesadillas, fresh juices, agua frescas, and unbelievable smoothies. Therefore, I had to impose a cheat meal. And it was so worth it!

It is important to note that Veracruz All Natural is a very healthy and forward-thinking restaurant. In fact, they are the best at making healthy and delicious tacos! However, I drank smoothies and agua frescas, which have fresh fruit, which was not on my diet.

Despite my cheat meal, I lost ten pounds during the two weeks prior to my sleeve surgery. This period gave me an opportunity to detox from sugar and products that made sugar in my body.

My name is Desiree Dunning. I’m 45 and I weigh 198 pounds.



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