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Clawing my way back up: My journey after gastric sleeve surgery.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The years have flown by since my first blog on Sparkpeople. I joined in desperation back in 2011 and with great success, I lost 70 lbs. in 9 months.(from 300 lbs. to 230 lbs.) by logging my food, exercising daily and sparking with friends. But, losing weight doesn't fix everything. I still didn't know how to deal with my stress, anxiety and depression without the occasional binge. I injured both feet jumping around in Zumba class and the lack of exercise along with daily life stress was all I needed to slowly sink back into a food-filled destructive state.

My body is not "normal". I gain weight very, very easily and when I eat carbs and sugar, it piles on quickly. My poly-cystic ovary syndrome adds to the problems. I can't blame it all on that because I just don't make good food choices when I am feeling tired or stressed. I crave carbs and sugar. I sit around when I don't feel well and I don't get enough sleep.

Fast forward to 2016, I have been trying to ignore the depressing fact that I gained all the weight back and now, hit my all time record high of 309 lbs. I was upset about some difficulties in my relationships and consciously ate thinking that this person would see that they were hurting me and make amends....it didn't work...just made me more fat and miserable!

In June 2016, I decided that something drastic had to be done. I was pre-diabetic, depressed, had acid reflux, joint problems, sciatica, sleep apnea, asthma, allergies, lethargy, couldn't get a job and really didn't want to live anymore.

My mother had had gastric sleeve surgery about 2 years earlier and had success in losing 50 lbs. and keeping it off. I needed to lose 150 lbs.! I felt that this might be just the tool I could use to get a start on the massive and seemingly impossible task of losing all the excess weight I had piled on myself as punishment for not living up to my own expectations.

Some people think that weight loss surgery is "cheating" or a "quick fix". I am here to tell you it is by no means easy or quick. I had to have lots of testing done prior to being approved for the surgery. My insurance did not cover anything...don't get me started on insurance companies! Anyway, I had stress tests, blood tests, sleep studies, psycho-analysis, echocardiograms, all that stuff done. The surgeon gave me the okay for surgery.

Because I was so over weight, I had to do a 3 week liquid (protein shake) diet prior to surgery to try and shrink my liver. If you liver is too big from fatty liver disease, which I had too, the surgeon may nick it trying to get to your stomach during surgery and that is dangerous. I had an allergic reaction to the protein shakes from the doctor so I had to use an egg-white protein powder and add fiber to it plus take vitamins. I became creative with extracts and unsweetened cocoa, etc. trying to make the protein shakes more desirable.

The 3 week pre-op liquid diet was brutal. By day 2, I felt I would never make it. I was a mess. Crying and weak. It took 5 days to get a routine going. I never thought I would get through the whole 3 weeks but, by taking it one day at a time and sometimes one hour at a time, I did it. I lost 23 lbs. prior to surgery and my joint pain disappeared. Finally, surgery day was here.

I had reservations about having the gastric sleeve surgery. I went back and forth in my mind thinking that I could just stay on the liquid diet and lose the weight that way but, my practical part of my mind realized that I would just fall back on old habits eventually gaining it all back again. I needed to really do the surgery and give this a 100% commitment.

I have never been the kind of person to do something half way. I give it all I've got or I go completely off course...no in between. I think it has to do with my problems with perfectionism. I constantly have to talk to myself and tell myself it is okay to let something go and not obsess over it. I have to remember to stay in the moment and make the best choice for right then. If I do that, the future will take care of itself.

My surgery date was Sept. 6th and I weighed 286 lbs. that morning. I was scared but, I took a leap of faith and had the surgery. I woke up from surgery about 2 hours later. There was no time for rest. I needed to get up pretty quickly and try walking. The pain in my chest from the gas they pumped into me for surgery was excruciating. It was hard but, I did what they asked, I drank my sips of water, I walked around, I finally was able to pee and go home.

It took about a week to start feeling better again. I staying is a recliner to sleep. I had a leg compression machine hooked up to my legs whenever I was sitting or sleeping. I had to keep sipping water, 1 ounce every 15 minutes, and walking around my house in laps to try to relieve the terrible gas pains in my chest. I needed pain pills the first week then liquid Tylenol was ok.

I had 6 incisions. The two on my sides were very sore because they had to cut some muscle and one of them is where the surgeon pulled my stomach out. The staples itched but, the nurse took them out two days later at my post-op visit.

I was put on a strict diet after surgery. I had nothing but water or clear liquid the first 24 hours. After that, I had protein shakes and chicken broth, sugar free jello and sugar free popsicles for 2 weeks. Then I was able to have pureed foods like mashed up low fat cottage cheese and fat free refried beans...which by the way, tastes awesome after 5 weeks of protein shakes!

Weight loss after surgery was slower than I expected. One reason is that they pumped me full of liquids during surgery and it took several weeks to get that water weight off. Also, I think my metabolism slowed down because my body was in "starvation mode" from such a low calorie liquid diet (800 calories a day). But, I took measurements once a month and tried not to obsess over the scale.

After about 6 weeks, I was allowed to resume eating regular food with the guidance of a nutritionist who instructed me to eat several ounces of lean protein 3 times a day with a couple tablespoons of veggies. No fruit, no bread, no sugar, and watch the fats. Not a very fun diet for someone who always enjoyed eating but, because of the surgery, I wasn't really hungry so I could look at it as more of a plan to get healthy and not as eating for pleasure. It was still up to me to make the right choices and work through my emotions without using food to soothe me...not an easy task.

So far, after 13 weeks (3 pre-op and 10 post-op) I have lost 54 lbs. Not a super fast, "quick fix" weight loss but, a substantial amount of weight and due to the high protein diet, it is "fat loss" not muscle. My clothes are sliding off me now. I really don't think that much about food other than making sure I have plenty of protein available for a quick choice when I do feel some hunger. I have to get 60 ounces of liquid in a day which is challenging since I can't gulp it down.

Eating is totally different now. My stomach is a different shape so "fullness" is now in my chest and throat. I have to eat small bites, slowly, or the food feels like it will come back up. I have to drink 30 minutes before or after a meal...not during. It is a life changing experience and should not be something you jump into. I cannot have carbonated beverages ever...no soda for the rest of my life! The carbonation will stretch my stomach and also give me gas. If I eat sugary stuff...I had a piece of cake at a party and it immediately upset my stomach.

This is a learning process and a slow gradual journey like before. I still have to be responsible for eating healthy and exercising. I have to take lots of vitamins to keep healthy and make up for not eating fruits and veggies. I have to take fiber at times to keep regular.
Was it worth it? So far, I think so...talk to me in a year. I have a long way to go...another 96 lbs. but, I am heading in the right direction and for the first time in many years, I feel like I just might be okay.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Thanks for reaching out via Sparkmail to some of us "old" friends. Glad to hear you are back on Spark, and I DO know that WLS is NOT the easy way out, nor is it a magic bullet for weight loss. It still requires effort to avoid those foods that cause weight gain, as well as all the pain you have endured with the actual surgery and recovery. I considered the surgery back in 2006, but found out, after attending an informational meeting that my insurance would not cover it at all. Not being inclined to go over $10,000 in debt, I eventually started a weight loss plan on my own and lost over 178 lbs. I still (almost six years after hitting goal) struggle to keep the weight off, as I know you will even after WLS. I know this because my daughter-in-law who attended the informational meeting on WLS with me, had the surgery (her insurance covered it), but only lost about 75 lbs. initially and has since regained it all plus some more I would guess. That's why I know WLS is NOT a magic bullet for weight loss. Since you opted for it, I hope it is successful for you. Your attitude is good, you KNOW it is just a tool for weight loss and are willing to do the work required to lose the weight and keep it off long-term. I think as we get older, and endure some unsuccessful weight loss journeys (regain, etc.), we DO get wiser. We eventually wake up and realize it's never a diet, it's NOT short-term deprivation after which we can return to our old habits, it's a life-style change which we must stick with FOREVER, but what we gain (a healthy life) is so worth everything we have to give up, isn't it???
    1652 days ago
    emoticon emoticon emoticon You will be ok and you are amazing! Your blog is very inspiring. Dequinta
    1652 days ago
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