It has been almost one year since I had my bariatric surgery. As writer Roxane Gay said, “this surgery is barbaric when you think about it.” Did I mention she said that directly to me? See how I threw in that name drop? Yes! I met Roxanne last Friday at a conference, and I raised my hand, and asked her about how she was doing since she had the gastric sleeve (same as me). She said that she is happy that she did the surgery, and I agreed. She said that she misses being able to “eat her feelings” and I nodded. Food is fuel. Repeat after me. Food is fuel. Here, Roxane writes about her feelings on the surgery.
So, one year later, would I do it again? 100% yes. Now, if you secretly think it is an “easy way out” of obesity, I will say that having 75% of your stomach surgically removed through five small incisions in your body is anything but easy. The recovery time is fairly swift (back at work after 2 weeks), but it took me a few months before I really got the hang of my newly-renovated organ.
Last night I went to the support group at the hospital where I had the surgery, and it was the “meet the starts” panel of people reporting to pre-surgical folks about what to expect. I went because some folks have been doing some diet talk around me lately, and it is bothersome on many levels. I wanted to ask the group how they handle it. I learned that everyone’s recovery is just a bit different but there are some commonalities. Here’s my list for curious readers and people contemplating the surgery:
- Everyone’s recovery from bariatric surgery is unique.
- Protein is crucial. With a tiny stomach, protein provides slow and steady energy. And make sure that protein is moist. Dry stuff tends to get stuck. Honey mustard, ranch dressing, etc are perfect accompaniments to grilled chicken, steak, salmon, etc.
- You may have to say goodbye to your favorite carbs, like rice, pasta and bread. I can’t remember the last time I had sushi. Before my surgery, I ate it religiously. Now I go for a teriyaki salmon instead when heading to a Japanese restaurant. Still delicious.
- Your shoe size may change! I was a solid size 8 for years while heavier. I am now a 7, maybe a 7 1/2. I’m slowly replacing all of my shoes. If you’re a size 8 and want to raid my closet, give me a shout out before I sell them all on Poshmark!
- Speaking of Poshmark, resale websites are a great place to get rid of clothes that are too big. I also do a lot of donating via the Vietnam Veterans of America, who pick up at my front door. I’ve sold about 7 bags to ThredUp as well.
- Many people will comment on your body changes. Some won’t. It’s good to decide up front how you want to respond. My general response when someone tells me I “look good” is to say, “thank you, I feel good.” I did this to feel better and be healthier, so my response is appropriate. I do not mind if people comment. It happens. I don’t sweat it.
- You do not need to be so open about how you lost the weight. While I am open about having the surgery, others just tell select friends and family. Totally fine too.
- Your tastebuds may change. I can immediately tell if something has added salt now. At first, I can’t stand it but after a few bites, I am usually ok.
- Going out to restaurants can be incredibly stressful. Since I’m open about my surgery, I usually say to wait staff, “I am going to eat a small amount of food, very slowly, and take the rest home. It doesn’t mean I didn’t like it.” I find this allows me to eat in peace. I do not do this to help the wait staff. I do it to help me. Remember that if I say this when I’m out to eat with you. It helps me eat in peace.
- People are curious and generally uneducated about this surgery unless they know someone who had it. People will think you had a lap band or a bypass. It’s an easy thing to clarify. Don’t sweat it. And I don’t mind answering questions for curious minds.
- Not drinking enough can really be detrimental to your body. You’ve seen my previous posts about “severe constipation.” Drink up. I’m sipping on a Powerade as I write. No sugar gaterade-type drinks are fantastic to help with this problem.
- Speaking of drinking, be very careful when you drink alcohol again. I will only take a few sips when out in public because you can get drunk very quickly. No one wants a DUI.
- You can gain the weight back. The human body is a miraculous beast – that stomach can stretch, you can fill it with ice cream and then fill it up again shortly thereafter, and suddenly, your weight can go up again. So, it’s good to be mindful about food intake.
- Exercise is important to one’s success. I wish I could say I’ve been diligent in this area, but I’m trying. Wanna take a walk?
- Despite the stats, relationships can survive the surgery!