Life After Weight Loss Surgery – Patient Perspective 2

patient_perspectives

I weighed in at my heaviest just after graduating with my Master’s in Education. I knew it was time for a serious life change. I started with small changes and ended up dropping just over 30lbs. It was great and I felt better, but realized I didn’t want this to be like all my other yoyo diets. I needed another tool.

I had a vertical sleeve gastrectomy done in July of 2015. I’m just over six months out now. Lots of people knew but I didn’t widely publicize it. First let me start by saying, no I did not choose the easy way out, nothing about this process is easy. No one wakes up one day and says hey, let me just cut open my body and take out most of my stomach, that’ll be a quick fix. Seriously, no one does that.

I am a recovering binge eater who additionally had incredibly unhealthy habits that I am working hard to overcome. Having a tiny stomach helps, it’s one of the many tools in my box. Unfortunately, I still struggle with my eating disorder, I probably always will. However, I now know how incredibly painful it is to binge eat with a tiny tummy so I try to avoid that as much as possible.

I am very excited to say that I am now officially down 100lbs from my heaviest weight back in May 2014!  I am NOT an expert; I just know what has helped me. Here are some of the many things that I have learned on my journey in no particular order.

  1. Make one small change at a time that you can live with, forever. Changing too many things at once was always a recipe for disaster.
  2. It has to be a lifestyle change or it will all come back, plus some… I did it many times.
  3. High protein, low carbs, low sugar. If you really want it, eat it. Moderation is key. If you are a binge eater and seriously can’t control yourself, know your triggers. I cannot keep cookies in my house. I WILL eat them, ALL of them.
  4. Measure your food; it’s amazing to see what a “portion” looks like. Be honest with yourself about what you are actually eating. Start a food journal, or use an app. You don’t have to share it with the world, but don’t lie to yourself. Write in EVERYTHING. Did you really need that entire box of chocolates? No, probably not. The difference is I don’t lie to myself about what I’m eating or drinking. I’m making a conscious decision about what I’m putting into my body.
  5. Meal prep with healthy things you like. Start small, you don’t need to plan your whole week. That’s overwhelming in the beginning.
  6. Have a somewhat boring diet. I don’t mean eat gross things that aren’t appealing. I eat basically the same thing all the time. I know what’s in it nutritionally and I enjoy it. Yes, I occasionally venture outside of my typical foods. However, I also know that if I don’t let myself have what I want then I will binge eat. I have learned my triggers.
  7. DO NOT reward yourself with food. You are not a dog. Find something else that makes you feel nice. This was incredibly important for me to learn. It was one of those major light bulb moments. Now I save money for fun experiences when I reach a certain goal.
  8. Don’t get on the scale constantly. It can have way too much control over your life. Focus on how clothes fit, and how your body feels. Don’t let the numbers control you, it’s way harder than it sounds. Who knew 3 little numbers had so much power? I wish I cared more about the numbers on in my bank account that that scale.
  9. Exercise. I know that word sounds terrible and scary, but it really just means move your body more. Start with small steps like parking further away, or going for a walk between episodes on TV… Find something you enjoy. If you don’t like it you won’t keep doing it. I started running. – I know, you can’t picture it. I couldn’t either – I also started strength training. I am so thankful to my coworker who suggested it.
  10. Know your support system. My family and friends have been incredibly supportive. I am forever thankful for their support. Also, build a supportive circle of people who you aren’t necessarily close to such as on social media. Family and friends can be a great support, but can also say things that don’t help but hurt. Having an outside network of supporters is incredibly helpful.
  11. Set realistic goals, you don’t need some daunting monster goal hanging over you. Lots of short small ones. You’ll feel accomplished and keep going. There is nothing worse than feeling as if you failed yourself.
  12. Don’t tell people what you’re doing. Suddenly everyone is an expert and trying to “help” you. Initially tell the people who mean the most to you, whom you feel would support you, or whose support you feel you need. Other than that, people don’t need to know until you feel like no one can stop the path you are on.
  13. Learn to say no. I promise it will help. No to yourself, no to others. No is a complete sentence and doesn’t require an explanation.
  14. Instead of saying I don’t have time, try telling yourself that it isn’t a priority. See how it makes you feel. Sometimes I’m OK with it. Other times I realize that I should be a priority and I need to make time. There is always something we can cut back on. Maybe it’s scrolling mindlessly through social media?
  15. Make sure you have a good reason, something that you are fighting for. If you keep that in mind then it makes it so much easier. Mine is that I want to be healthy enough to have children and raise them. I want to be around long enough to watch them have children. I’m going to do anything I can to be healthy for that possibility.
  16. If you post comparison pictures, try to brand them in some way. People will undoubtedly use them to sell their stuff. Yes, it has happened to me. On that same note, take lots of pictures. Don’t delete all the ones you don’t like how you look, you don’t need to show them to anyone. It’s helpful to look back and see the change when you are feeling like a failure for one reason or another. There have been plenty of days when I felt like I wasn’t making as much progress as I wanted, or as quickly as I wanted it. I look back at my pictures and am always shocked.
  17. Think about what you are scared of in the process. Is it failure? It could happen, but you could also succeed. Is it how much money you will spend being healthy? You might be surprised. Better food is more expensive. However, I eat less of it. I also pay significantly less medical bills because of how sick I used to get. Yes, clothing is expensive. Clothes tend to get cheaper the smaller you are, unless you are into name brands. Is it excess skin? Skin has some elasticity, but we are being real honest here… Yes, I have excess skin. Yes, it makes me somewhat uncomfortable. However, I can tell you that I am way more comfortable in my own skin than I have been in years. What is scaring you away from trying? Is that you might actually be successful and don’t know what to do when you are? I know, strange concept, but I was really scared of that. Take a leap of faith, you can do this.
  18. This one is important. I would say the most important – Love yourself and be proud of yourself at every stage of your journey. I can’t even begin to explain how important this part was for me.

This journey has been a crazy one, and my lifestyle has completely changed. I eat healthy, and honestly unhealthy food doesn’t even sound that appealing to me anymore. I do active things for fun now and am looking forward to doing so many more. I feel healthy and have energy at the end of the day now. I wouldn’t change it for anything. I may look different and lead a different lifestyle but, I’m still 100% me, sarcasm and all. Just a lighter, healthier version of me. I am still very much a work in progress, but that will never change.

Thank you to the patient who submitted this post – if you would like to share your perspective after weight loss surgery, email me janet.huehls@umassmemorial.org

Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.

Keep Moving, Be Well

Janet

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by | April 13, 2016 · 3:40 pm

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