Five days ago I was sitting in a hospital bed getting ready to have surgery at the University of Washington. One of the leading teaching schools in the country. I was excited, scared and just full of emotion. I’ve been on this journey for so long now that I couldn’t believe I was finally at this point.
Over the last few months I had gone back and forth on whether or not I was going to share my story with the world. Unlike other medical surgeries, weight loss surgery carries a stigma. It’s right up there with getting a nose job or breast implants. For some reason people don’t look at it as the tool that it is. They see it as an easy weight to loss weight and achieve the perfect thin body. They wrongly assume that this surgery is a magical pill and requires no effort from the patient to maintain. They honestly couldn’t be farther from the truth.
I lost 43 pounds of my weight on my own through watching portion sizes and watching what I ate. It wasn’t easy but I got through it. I choose to have this surgery because I was finished yoyo-ing. Knowing that I would never get down to my goal weight on my own. I am using this surgery as another tool in my arsenal to finding the healthy me. I also had my gallbladder removed at the same time. I had been having issues with my gallbladder for some time, so it just made sense to remove it at the same time.
Why Did I Choose Gastric Bypass Surgery
I’ve always been a heavy girl. I hit puberty and just ballooned, steadily gaining weight. I didn’t gain it fast and I was able to lose bits here and there, but mostly the scale just crept upward. It was so slow and steady that when I finally saw that 238 looking back at me, I was taken aback. I mean yes, I did just have a baby but when did I get to this point? I only gained 20 pounds during the pregnancy. It very well could have been the two miscarriages and subsequent depression leading up to my healthy pregnancy. It could be the long term nursing making me pregnant or nursing for pretty much the last 10 years. Maybe it was just genetics. Whatever the reason, it was all my doing. I’m not here to lay blame on anyone or anything really. I don’t have PCOS. I don’t take medication that causes weight gain. I don’t have some other medical condition that makes weight gain easy. This is all due to my over eating. Over eating and eating things that hold no nutritional value.
I had been heavy for so long, I couldn’t remember a time that I weighed less then 180. I was able to lose 25 pounds once on weight watchers, but with all diet plans you get tired of counting calories and points. That was the most weight I had ever lost. 25 pound. I became pregnant pretty quickly after that however and gained it all back. As my children grow I notice that my weight is getting in the way of their childhood. How many times have I said I wouldn’t go to the park because I didn’t have the energy to chase them around the park. The pool is unheard of because that would mean sausage-ing my rolls into a swimsuit. Hell, I didn’t want to look at that why would anyone else. I wanted to be the mom that said yes or no because of the situation at the time, not because how I felt about my weight. With 5 kids I always worry I’m not healthy enough to keep up with them all and one of them would end up getting hurt. So I say no and stay home where it is safe and where I don’t have to be worried about my weight causing issues.
It’s not an easy process
When I started this process I had just had my 5th child and I was at my all time heaviest. I was appalled when I stepped on the scale and saw it read 238 pounds. I’ve never been one who loses weight while breastfeeding. I know a lot of women do, but for me I tend to gain or maintain my pregnancy weight. The longer you keep the baby weight on the harder it is to take off. Knowing that I was finished with expanding my family I went and saw my doctor and asked him about weight loss surgery. This whole process started in May of 2016.
After speaking with my doctor he agreed it would be a good choice for me. He referred me to the surgeon. Before you can even get started you have to get approved my the insurance. All insurances are different, but mine had a load of requirements. One requirement that seems to be pretty regular is having a BMI of 35 and above. With a BMI of 35-40 you have to have at least 2 comorbidities. These include things such as diabetes, sleep apnea, and arthritis. A BMI of 40 and above doesn’t normally need comorbidities to qualify.
My BMI started at 43. With a BMI of 43 I was class three morbidly obese. I honestly didn’t feel like I was “That” big. I mean I wasn’t 600 pounds. But at 5’2 I was so over weight that I was double the size that I should be. Double. My insurance approved my request to start the process that included 12 physical therapy appointments, 12 appointments with a counselor, and 12 appointments with a dietitian. This was just to start. I also had to prove that I had tried several other diet plans at some point or another. All of this doesn’t include what the surgeon requires. Most of these were medial tests to make sure everything was healthy. Testing could include any number of blood tests as well as other more elaborate investigations, including upper endoscopy, upper GI radiaologic studies, sleep studies to test for obstructive sleep apnea, pH monitoring studies to investigate for reflux and testing for H pylori, among others.
After finishing all of these and submitting to insurance once again I waited for them to approve the surgery. A week later I got the approval and then scheduled surgery. Surgery was July 7, 2017. So if you do the math this whole process took a year and 2 months from the time I asked the doctor to the time I was sitting in the operating room.
It’s Not A Magic Pill
One of the requirements of my insurance was to lose 5% of my body weight and not gain any weight over the 6 months of weigh ins. I knew the no weight gain part would be easy, but I was afraid of the losing part. I started watching what I ate and made sure not to pig out on all the sweets. Honestly I was surprised how quickly the first 10 pounds came off. But I had to give up all my comfort foods. I started eating my meals on the small dinner plates and not the normal dinner plates. I stopped eating then I was full. As time went on I adjusted more of my eating habits.
Once you have weight loss surgery there are so many things you have to be mindful of. You can not continue to eat like you did before surgery and expect to loss the large amounts of weight you read about. Because this surgery makes your stomach much smaller you start off only being able to eat about 1/4 cup at a time.
A lot of people start learning how to eat again by using toddler plates and utensils. This allows them to relearn how to portion out their foods and realize what their new normal is. The smaller silverware makes it easier to take smaller bites. It might seem silly but it is so easy to use a larger plate and portion yourself way more then you need and of course then you end up eating more then you need.
No more drinking while eating. Not even a little. Again because your new stomach is smaller if you drink while you eat you are only washing your nutrients right down. You’re not giving your body enough time to absorb the vitamins you need to survive and stay healthy. This is a hard one for me.
Once you’re past the first few months or the “Honey Moon” stage of this surgery, you still have to make good choices. You still have to choose the proteins over the sugars. You can’t eat a burger everyday and expect to lose weight. Many weight loss patients will regain a portion of their weight loss. This occurs because people go into the surgery thinking it will do all the work for them. It will help you lose 75% of your excess weight but it wont help you keep it off. If you continue to behave like you did before surgery, you WILL end up in the same boat.
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