Why choose weight loss surgery?

 

We’ve all seen the People magazine cover’s with those people that have lost huge amounts of weight (we’re talking 50-100’s of pounds here!) all on their own. The magazine makes sure to point out in big letters that these people did it all WITHOUT SURGERY. As if they need some kind of medal or something. Don’t get me wrong now! I believe that anyone who loses weight, never mind over 50lbs of it, deserves a medal. It’s just the fact that the whole WITHOUT SURGERY part is supposedly the most important part of it all. It’s a big life changing deal to lose a lot of weight – no matter how it’s done. Plus I believe that the people who choose surgery don’t necessarily make a bigger choice then those that don’t choose surgery, but I do believe they make a much more desperate choice.

When I was facing that choice I was most certainly desperate. Desperate, depressed (near suicidal in fact), panicked and defeated. I truly saw no other way for me to live out even the next ten years, never mind make it my to son’s high school graduation! That’s the kind of spot I was in mentally and I believe it’s probably true for others that choose the surgery route. I personally think that if you are considering having a potentially life threatening surgery done, then you should probably be in a life threatening situation with your health. That’s where I was. After a checkup I received a letter from my doctor. This letter was an eye opener. I knew I was hugely overweight and that I was courting disaster health wise. But this letter blatantly stated that if I couldn’t get my weight and Diabetes under control I would be facing amputation within a few years and probably death within ten years. Time to do something drastic, right?! When people are considering this surgery it’s NOT for vanity or cosmetic reasons usually. Think about it this way, does someone just decide to have cardiac bypass surgery because they think they may have a heart attack in a few years but don’t want to stop eating sausages? Um, no way! Nor would they be allowed to – I hope! Same goes with weight loss surgery.

I really envy those people in the magazines that lose all that weight and get healthy and don’t need to have surgery to do it. I think they are in a MUCH better state of mind than I was at the outset though. They may have some of the same problems even, like diabetes, or a hypertension diagnosis that triggered them to solve the weight problem once and for all. But the fact that they felt even remotely capable of solving the weight problem sets them several important steps above where I was.

I think mind-set is maybe the single most important factor in play here and I will be spending a lot of time on how what you think affects your reality. But for now, if you are seriously thinking about having weight loss surgery (friends and family listen up!) then you are probably thinking all day, every day how impossible this problem is for you to solve, how you’ve been fighting this battle for sooo long and you’re battle weary and scarred. It’s hard to tie your shoes because it’s hard to bend over because there is too much fat in the way. Or if you have already given up on tie shoes, it’s hard to bring your foot to your opposite knee to even put your shoe on. Maybe you have had to just give up and use Crocs or some other slip on. Getting dressed is just covering up as much fat as possible cuz for sure you don’t have any clothes you get excited about putting on, or if you do, they never look quite the way you want them to. What’s of vital importance here is that I was so tired of living in that situation that I felt there was no other way out. If I had been able to believe in myself enough for long enough (beyond the first two weeks of every new diet, that is) I would have never gotten as bad as I had. The person who had that surgery was a different person than I am now. I had been verbally and mentally abusing myself pretty much since puberty and there was no universe where I felt that I was capable of losing the weight on my own or that I even deserved to!

When a person has put themselves in a mindset like that for years and years, well I think it’s laughable for anyone to actually look at that poor wrecked person and say,” Well if you just stopped eating all the junk and went for a walk once in a while.” What can they be expecting from a statement like that other than to shame? Do they really think this morbidly obese (100 pounds over his/her ideal body weight) is going to stop and say, “OH geez! Really?? It’s just that simple?? I NEVER knew that! Thank you so much! I’m going to go home and clean out my kitchen and pantry right now! No! Better yet, I’m going to jog there! My life is transformed!” Um, no! Someone who is 100lbs over their ideal body weight has bigger issues surrounding weight than just cutting out junk food.

Also, it should be pointed out, especially if you’re reading this and considering the surgery or if friends and family are reading, that you can’t just walk in and say, “I want weight loss surgery.” and have surgery scheduled ASAP. There is a long process, or was for me anyway, and many screenings and informational meetings that have to happen before a surgery date is scheduled. I had to meet with a nutritionist, my regular doctor, the surgeon, and a therapist. Not to mention the huge amount of lab tests that were done. So, when people just dismiss it, yet again, as only the “easy way out”, it’s really not.

The mental state of mind I had allowed myself to descend into prior to surgery was one where on a daily basis I told myself that I and my son and husband would be better off if I died on the table, rather than continue to exist the way I was. I truly felt that for my son, my baby boy, to grow up with a 300lb plus mother was way worse for him than losing his mother when he was 4yrs old.  I even wrote him a letter that he could have in case I didn’t make it or there was some huge complication. That’s where I was mentally.

Now, I’m not saying that everyone who considers this surgery is in that same mental state, or even partly in that kind of state. What I am saying is that generally speaking anyone who is big enough and with enough other possibly life threatening issues going on is probably NOT being cavalier with their life. There are serious, serious considerations to major surgery and I believe that most people that have gotten to the morbidly obese stage have a lot more going on inside than anybody knows about. I think anyone who gets to a point that they are willing to risk death for an operation that permanently changes their insides should be given a healthy amount of respect and not be treated like they cheated their way into health!

If you or someone you know is considering this surgery or just have some questions about what happens after when the weight comes off…..or when it starts to come back on….This is the place. Anything you want to know – anything at all – we need to start talking about it. Only when you bring something into the light does it break free from the hold of darkness. This is a very dark, shame filled issue in our world. We need to light it up.

 

 

The First Year…Easy?

How do you talk to the people in your life about this stuff? All this sticky, uncomfortableness that’s under the surface about the Bypass surgery or weight in general. If you’re like me and slightly prickly (understatement!) about it all, they don’t ask you. They may, in fact, contemplate moving to another state so they won’t have to. This should help. Send them here. Have them read and maybe it will help them understand and also help you start to share some of the dark with your people.

Surgery is done so now comes the miracle, right? That’s what I thought anyway. The surgeon came in to see me later that same day to see how I was doing. I took one look at him and started bawling my eyes out, thanking him and saying how now it was possible now for me to be normal. The slightly hysterical tone to my thank you may have had something to do with the lovely morphine pump next to my bed, but the sentiment was for real. I truly believed that because there was no doubt that I would lose weight that would make me normal. That lovely golden tinted world where I could (finally!) walk into a room and just be there. NOT walk into a room and have people look at the door way, look me up and down and look away quickly as if they had seen something they shouldn’t – or worse, look me up and down, and quickly look to the person next to them with a smug, superior smirk. I figured if I could be unremarkable because I was a normal size that would be about as close to heaven as I could get.

I was released from the hospital after three days which remain a blur due to the morphine bubble I was in. My diet post op was like many out there and each doctor has their own nutritionist (or they should!). I was allowed protein shakes and water and had various meds to take, which had to be crushed up and put into the shake or water. Let me just say EEWW! I wasn’t feeling very hungry which was awesome, but I almost burst into tears on my first night back over….wait for it….toast! Toast!! How silly is that? My mother, who was staying with us to help out that first week, made herself some peanut butter toast and the smell….Well let’s just say that it really brought home to me what I had willingly done to my body. Never again would I be able to just eat something without thinking about it. It would be months before I was even able to TRY to have some kind of bread and I was told pre-op that most people are unable to eat bread easily or at all after the surgery. FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES! Sound like the easy way out to you?

I was very lucky in that I had no physical complications from the surgery until about a year out. There are major complications possible and they are no joke. According to the Mayo Clinic just a few of the major ones are: blood clots, leaks in the GI system, infection, bowel obstruction, gallstones, hernias, low blood sugar, malnutrition, ulcers and vomiting. (http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/bariatric-surgery/basics/risks/prc-20019138) I ended up with gallstones and I can tell you I’ve never had such pain in my life! I had my gallbladder removed and all’s well. We will talk more about the malnutrition and torture that is Dumping Syndrome in another post. For now, suffice it to say that I was lucky. A lot of people aren’t. Easy way out, huh?

Everything I’ve just gone over for you guys is serious stuff, but to me it’s not even the scariest part of that honeymoon year (up to two years for some). For me it was the actual weight coming off. Ok! Ok! I can hear you saying, “I call BS! It’s what you wanted!! What you risked your life for!” And that is all true. It was one of the most exhilarating rides of my life to see the weight come off. To realize that when I only have one of them, my chin is actually a bit pointy, and that no, I am not really “big boned” at all! If fact, when they are slim, my wrists and ankles seem a bit delicate to me. All of the wonderful clichés you hear about happened to me. Shopping was fun, I could tie my shoes without gasping for air and turning bright red from bending over. Certain intimate portions of my relationship with my husband improved a hundred fold (hey! I said we would talk about it ALL didn’t I?) and I could play with my son at the playground or on the floor with his trains. But…

But as much as I loved seeing myself in the mirror looking like someone else, it was also creepy and scary in a weird way. I mean, it was me, no doubt, but at the same time I had never seen that face before – ever. I starting putting on weight at puberty, so I had never seen what I should actually look like as an adult. I told myself it was a good thing to see me but not actually recognize that person. It’s what I wanted all along. But…

But I expected things of that person that she was not equipped to do and I didn’t give her any time to adjust. Since the weight had come off, all those other problems should be gone too. I know it sounds childish, and I knew in my head that all my other problems weren’t caused by my weight. I had been telling myself that the reason I wasn’t successful in some career was because I was too fat to try. My weight blocked and protected me from a harsh world. The reasons for my failings always somehow came back to the fat on my body. Dreams I wanted to pursue I never really started at because ultimately I felt if I couldn’t even control/conquer and be at peace with my own body, then how would I ever do what’s necessary to achieve anything great in this world? So when the weight came off and all of a sudden I was faced with the fact that some of my problems came from the weight, but in fact, MOST did not. So what was my new excuse? Shedding all that weight brought me face to face with the fact that I didn’t really know myself, what I was capable of or what I really wanted out of life. None of which has a whole lot to do with the pounds I put on my body. I think, looking back now, that those pounds were a perfect way for me to hide all that. Maybe people that lose the weight naturally and in a slower fashion have a chance to deal with those issues as they go. But I was terrified. So given that state of mind, what happens when crisis hits as it so often does. Someone dies, or a marriage falls apart, illness strikes, the “problem child” has even more problems? Easy way out? Really?

I hope this helps and I also hope it’s something maybe you can refer people to when you have a hard time trying to explain that losing all that weight can be both Heaven and Hell at the same time. Let me know what you think! How did it go for you? Tell me it all and maybe we can shed (lol – no pun intended) some light on this for friends and family and even curious bystanders. More importantly, we can start to talk about what happens when you have gained some (or all) back and still have to live life. What do you do, how do you not descend into a black hole, or if you do, how do you climb back out? Your black hole may look vastly different than mine, but I bet it’s covered with the same embarrassment and shame that makes it hard to gain a foot hold. Let’s start climbing.