One Patient's Story
This morning I stumbled out of bed (I’m not exactly a morning person) and into the bathroom. The mirror reflected back an attractive woman that I was getting to know; I felt satisfied/content. I smiled back at myself reflection, a few tears fell down my face as thought about how great life is for me. Since surgery I have seen many changes in my body, and even more in my mind – the way I think about everything. My physical body has changed greatly, but other more meaningful changes have occurred at the same; changes so deep inside my being that they are difficult to describe – it’s been a process of incredible change.
My struggle with weight goes back as long as I can remember. I never remember being a “normal” weight or not having issues with food. Until recently I never remember looking in the mirror and being pleased with my reflection. The joy that I feel in being more comfortable with myself emanates from my very being every day. Hard to truly understand whether people are treating me differently now because I’m a normal weight, or because I’m so happy.
My surgeon, Dr. Aaron Baggs fixed the size of my stomach. This was the “tool” I needed to begin the process for the weight loss. For me this process has been both physical and emotional. The healing or the emotional part of this endeavor has been the more significant and the harder part of the process. Having said that, I need to share that the surgery was an absolute necessity for me. I am convinced that I could not have had long lasting success without the surgery. As a strong willed person I had tried and tried and tried some more to lose weight and keep it off; I always failed in the end. Surgery was a bit of a miracle for me. Small stomach, small hunger = way less need for food.
I have some serious and sincere advice at this point in my story – Do Exactly What your Doctors and the Nutritionists tell you to do; follow their instructions to the letter. If you are strong enough to do as you are advised, you will have success beyond what you can dream of.
I overate and under-chewed my food exactly one time. That means I have thrown up exactly one time since my surgery. Please don’t think that throwing up or dumping will be part of life after surgery because you have heard other WLS patients discussing it in group or on a website. I promise you, if you do what you are told – you will not have any issues. I have absolutely no issues, no hair failing out (nothing). Get your protein in, take your vitamins, Exercise! Change your relationship with food. If you want serious success, do yourself the biggest favor of your life – don’t stretch your new tiny stomach. It’s quite simple, don’t eat too large a quantity of food, chew your food ever so thoroughly, and Don’t drink any carbonated beverages (they will stretch your stomach and eventually you’ll be back to square one – a stomach that is too big). If you stretch your stomach, you will never achieve the success that you dream of. You will probably still have some success, but it will be less significant and it might be only temporary if you stretch your stomach enough. Ask yourself what you really want and stick to your guns. After a while it isn’t very difficult any longer. That doesn’t mean I don’t work at it every day; it just means it isn’t such a huge struggle.
One of my good friends and I had surgery at about the same time. I’m now within ten (10!) pounds of my ideal chart weight and she is fifty (50) pounds from her ideal weight. Guess who did Everything (and I do mean everything) they were told and guess who cheats a bit here and there? Think about what you really want when you reach for a portion that is too large or take just a few sips of a diet soda.
Some of the things that I did that helped me be successful were:
- Kept a journal of all food (included amount, calories, fat, and protein)
- Kept a journal of all exercise (what, how long, approx calories expended) By the way, I exercised a lot. I believe I won’t need surgery of any kind mainly because of the exercise.
- Kept a journal of everything I was feeling during this process. Believe me, you are going to feel all sorts of stuff. Losing food as a comforter and friend was very difficult for me. It’s sort of a grieving process that I went through.
- Went to Therapy. I know this isn’t for everyone, but at the very least Talk to your friends a lot. Part of my weight issue was physical (my stomach was too big and my physical hunger was larger than the thin/normal folks) and part was Emotional eating. To reach success at the level I desired I knew I had to work both sides of my problem simultaneously. One’s relationship with food starts early on in your life and there is no question that food can be at least temporarily soothing and comforting. Although I still absolutely enjoy food a great deal; my relationship with food is very different from what it used to be. I now understand what my unmet needs are, and I’m working on getting them met. It sounds simple – but it isn’t, it is a process and takes a while to work through.
Believe it or not some days now I don’t even think of food at all, or I’ll catch myself in the middle of the afternoon thinking “Have I eaten today, what?) I try to make sure that I get the 60 grams of protein daily, eat some fruit and veggies and take my vitamins. Although I still enjoy food, now food has become something that gives my body the nutrition it needs. Please remember that surgery doesn’t change your relationship with food – you do that! or you don’t do that, it’s your choice… For me, it was important to work on the both the physical and the emotional aspects of overeating. Yes, I ate because I was hungry. Yes, I think my stomach was bigger than the skinny folks stomachs. Yes, I think it took my brain longer to get a signal from my stomach that it was full. Also Yes, I was eating too much because of some other unmet needs in my life.
The emotional side of the eating problem for me was probably more significant than the physical side of the disease for me. Now that I’ve figured out what my unmet emotional needs are; I’m working on getting what I need. Since all of us have different needs, I’m confident that the process of figuring that out is probably quite different from person to person. For some of you good friends may be all you need. I needed a trained professional, a therapist. Therapists don’t have the answers, but they can listen to you and guide you to finding your answers. Therapists are not all created equal, so take time to find one you feel comfortable with.
Today I’m 15 months post op. I’ve lost 112 pounds. I need to lose about 10 more pounds to be “chart” weight perfect. Because of my exercise routine, I do not believe I will need any surgery to remove extra skin. Skin shrinkage is probably very different from person to person; I believe you can do yourself a huge favor by being diligent about both aerobic exercise as well as weight lifting and toning exercises.
I walk 4-5 miles every day. Rain, shine, or snow, my dog and I walk. I also go to the gym and do weights or a toning class a couple of times a week.
My personal faith has helped me in this process a great deal. (Faith= the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things not seen). Until one has this surgery and begins the journey it is inconceivable to describe all of the mixed emotions that you will go through – scary stuff, joyful stuff, confusing stuff….Wow! What a wild ride. I’m excited for you that you are considering surgery and possibly undertaking the entire process.
I was at a nearby park this past fall on a fabulous sunny Indian Summer day walking with my dog. I was wearing shorts and a cute t-shirt. There were some construction/electrical folks were on a utility line and doing some trenching work. They were looking my direction (staring really). I looked behind me to see what they were looking at; there was nothing going on in the woods behind me. They continued to watch me. I looked down at my handsome dog to see if he was carrying a stick or doing something worth watch – he wasn’t. I wonder to myself why they continue to look at us and what they might be discussing amongst themselves. Oh my gosh – it just hit me that second – they were looking at me.
All I can say is that I felt so weird, pleased/flattered, shocked, embarrassed (was my t-shirt too tight, my shorts too short?) thrilled, scared, and finally disgusted. You know the old “oh just put your eyes back in your head and get back to work” thought. When you are overweight most people don’t ever really look at you – – that is a very safe place to be. It’s scary to lose a lot of weight. You can’t really tell if people like you and want to be your friend or your date because of the gentleness and warmth in your heart, or just because they think you are cute and a little fun.
I vaguely remember crying the day I left my Doctor’s office (The most caring Doctor on the planet) when she told me that I needed to consider this surgery). I didn’t cry because of the suggestion of surgery – I cried because she told me that this was a disease and that it wasn’t my fault. How my life has changed since the day I sat in her office two years ago. I never ate tons and tons of food. Yes, I ate too much and I didn’t have a “healthy” relationship with food but honestly I was never a complete pig.
I’m sharing with you the personal part of this journey so that you will get a glimpse into the emotional nature of the journey you are contemplating going on.
All this is particularly on my mind these days because I’m dating –yeah really dating for the first time in my life! Talk about putting yourself out there…. So, so fun, and So, so scary. I can’t, even a minute, imagine dating as a teenager or young adult. It’s tough enough at this age…. There are a lot of emotional ups and downs that come with significant weight loss, and more ups and downs that come with dating for the first time in your forties. The excitement, and the fears that I’ve been going through are amazing. I Feel More Alive, I Feel More Frightened, and I Feel Braver than I ever imagined I could Feel.
Do Be Brave – it’s so worth it!
I have faith that the Best is Yet to Come!