The Weight Loss Surgery Journey: A Test of Patience
June 17, 2015
This gastric sleeve patient lost nearly half of his body weight, and is now a svelte 143 pounds with a BMI of 23.1. He was willing to write up his own feature which is as follows.
“I went on my first diet at the age of 7, and sometimes feel like I’ve started a new diet every Monday morning for the last 48 years. I’ve done ‘em all – from a 40-day hospital stay in 1974, to Weight Watchers (3 times), Diet Center (2 times), Jenny Craig, Nutri-System, Atkins, South Beach, Cambridge, Slim Fast, Fen-Phen, grapefruit and egg, and even self-starvation. I’ve probably lost close to 1,000 pounds throughout my life, including three or four nearly 100-pound losses. And after all that, at the age of 55, I still found myself 110 pounds overweight; with diabetes, apnea, asthma, arthritis, high cholesterol, and borderline blood pressure. With a wonderful wife and 10-year-old child at home, I was a heart attack or stroke just waiting to happen.
So why was I able to lose weight so effectively at times, but never keep it off? Same as most people, I guess. When fully committed, I could “flick the switch” in my brain and resist anything… for a while. I’d lose a bunch of weight and start looking and feeling better, and then I’d be at a party with lots of goodies and think, “What the heck. I’ve done so well, so I’ll treat myself just this once and get right back on my diet.” Hello, slippery slope! And then the cycle would begin again. That “switch” doesn’t always stay flicked, you know?
Then, 20 years ago, I lost a bunch of weight and maintained it for quite a while. But then I had some surgery and even quit smoking in the process. Great, right? Yeah, but after that the weight started coming back on, and eventually I gained about 50 pounds. So then I bounced around between 60 and 100 pounds overweight until I got married and we had a baby. Of course, during the pregnancy I gained 40 more pounds of “baby weight”. But unlike my wife, I never delivered mine!
So that brings me to the more recent past, when all those years of being overweight finally caught up with me and I began getting all the “fat diseases”. Before my surgery, I was taking daily injections plus pills for diabetes, sleeping with a CPAP machine for apnea, and taking fistfuls of pills every day to manage the other co-morbidities.
And that brings us to last year. In addition to all the diseases, I was exhausted and achy all the time, and had trouble dragging myself out of the recliner to play with my kid like I should. I’d take naps after stuffing myself at lunchtime, and exercise as little as possible. We all know the drill, right? And gradually, I got more and more disgusted with myself.
During that time, two of my co-workers had weight loss surgery: one bypass and one sleeve. Every day for about a year, I watched them get smaller and smaller. They didn’t keep their surgeries a secret, so when I asked about their experience, they graciously shared all the details with me – the good, and the bad. And gradually I got to the point where I said, “I WANT THAT!”
Once I decided to get sleeved, I went all-in. I followed all my doctor’s post-op rules to a tee (with the exception of coffee – my one remaining vice). But this time something was different from all those past diets. Because of the restriction in my stomach, instead of losing momentum and giving in to temptation, my new “tool” gave me the strength I needed to consistently make the right choices. I lost 110 pounds and made it to goal in 8 months. And in the two months after that, I lost another 10 pounds to give myself a comfortable buffer. I’m off all diabetes, apnea, blood pressure, and asthma meds, and after my next doctor’s appointment, I should be off the cholesterol meds too. So now that I’ve reached my final goal weight, I’m exactly where I want to be for the first time in my adult life; which, quite frankly, is a totally mind-blowing thought!
My big secret? Just follow the danged rules – all of them! (And mind you, I’ve been a rule breaker all my life.) If you do exactly what your doctor or nutrition program recommends, the weight will come off. After a month or two of making good (but difficult) choices, the cravings for the foods that got you to your pre-surgery weight will start to fade away, and the pride in your accomplishment will have a stronger pull than the food. That’s when you really get on a roll!
My philosophy has been that there’s plenty of time to learn how to eat for maintenance once I get to my goal weight. That way, if I add something back into my food plan and it causes me to gain a few pounds; I only need to re-lose those few pounds. I don’t need to lose them PLUS all the rest that haven’t come off yet. I also believe that we get a 9–12 month “honeymoon period” (when the weight comes off more easily and the hunger is more manageable), to get our heads in the right place for the long haul. I firmly believe that people who take maximum advantage of their honeymoon period are far more likely to get all the way to goal weight; and hopefully, to keep it off.
And now my theory will be put to the test…
Over the next few weeks and months, I’ll need to start experimenting with what works and what doesn’t. I’ll need to add back some foods that will stop the weight loss, without causing a gain, and without putting me back on the slippery slope. But what are those foods? My doctor suggests that if you want to increase your carb intake, to add only foods that you would eat cooked as part of a meal (like brown rice, whole wheat pasta, sweet potatoes, barley, quinoa, oatmeal, and green peas). No white bread, pasta, rice, or potatoes, no refined sugar, no fruit juice, soda, or ice cream – and nothing that would tempt you to go to the fridge or pantry for a handful or bowlful as a snack. That sounds reasonable, so that’s what I’m going to try.
So how do I feel about my weight loss journey so far? Believe it or not… it’s been a total blast! And see, that’s another reason to follow all the rules and lose the weight quickly – the compliments, your reflection in the mirror, clothes that fit and look good, the extra energy for family and friends, and most of all, your new-found health, are a thousand times more fun and motivating than anything that could ever go into your mouth!
And here’s one final thought… Several months ago I ran into a woman I hadn’t seen for a while. She’d been thinking about weight loss surgery, but was afraid to take the first step. But when she saw the “new me”, she said the exact same words I had said a year ago, “I WANT THAT!” Well, a few weeks ago she got sleeved and she’s doing great! And that’s how this wonderful story continues…
I wish all of you great success, and a healthy, exciting, and fun journey to good health!!!