If you’re about to have gastric bypass surgery, here’s one thing I can tell you: get used to feeling dehydrated. At least initially, once your past the first few weeks of surgery. Secondly, get used to taking a water bottle with you everywhere. Because you can only sip water (go ahead, guzzle – I dare you. Let me tell you from personal experience: having a stomach pouch overly full of water or another liquid, and then throwing it up, is a very painful experience, and one not to be repeated. One lesson was enough for me!), you will initially be very thirsty, and feel as though you cannot get enough to drink.
The solution? Sip. I used to be able to drain an 8 ounce glass of water in 1-2 gulps. Now I can work down 16 ounce bottle of water in about an hour, one sip at a time. I keep bottles of water in my house, at my desk, and in my car. I take them with me everywhere. And I make sure to sip a few sips of water before meals, since once I start eating I generally am not able to drink again (except for maybe a small sip or two to wet my mouth and throat) for a half an hour to an hour or more after eating.
Taking A Bottle Of Water With You Everywhere is a personal mantra of mine, and it should be for any post-op weight loss surgery patient. Dehydration doesn’t feel good (common symptoms: headache, nausea, dizziness, vertigo), and it can be very dangerous, especially in hot weather. So make sure you take care of yourself, and start by keeping filled bottles of water everywhere you’re going to be.
Most fat girls don’t, anyway. When I was a lot heavier, I certainly didn’t. I wore capris. I rarely wore tank tops, and when I did, I certainly didn’t wear spaghetti strap ones. Here were my typical spring and summer outfits (I was 325+ lbs in all of these photos):
Two summers ago, when I was down to 200 lbs by August, I tentatively ventured into the world of shorts… wore a pair a few times… but mainly stuck to capris. Dealt with a bit of chafing once or twice.
Last summer, when I was in the 180s, I did half shorts, half capris, all summer. Building up my confidence, still worrying about the dreaded chub rub.
This summer? Mostly shorts. I have a pair of bermudas that I “tested the waters” with, but overall I’m just wearing shorts. I feel so liberated. I mean, my thighs are still flabby, and I’ll always have heavy Polish legs (or “peasant stock”, as my grandmother used to call them), but they look better than they did even a year ago, and definitely better than two years ago, and SO MUCH BETTER than when I was over 300 lbs. Best of all, no more chafing! I’ve worn shorts all day long, done loads of walking in them, etc., and absolutely no chub rub. Whoo!
Here I am in shorts last year – just subtract 20 lbs, and you have me now:
Summer is here, and it’s no surprise that I’m hitting the road now more than ever. Since May I have already made three road trips – once to the mountains for a hike, once to Washington, D.C. to visit two museums, and now today I am in Baltimore, Maryland with my friend Amanda, who is going through the process of having gastric bypass surgery, and is attending a bariatric/nutritionist appointment today.
While on the go, it can be all too easy to sacrifice weight maintenance/loss for the sake of convenience. I was tempted to do that, and in the past, I have. But this time around, I decided not to. I packed food to bring with me: I brought along my shake container and enough protein powder to ensure that I would have a shake this morning (I slept over Amanda’s house last night), and another this afternoon (each scoop of protein powder provides 30g of whey isolate protein). I also brought a container of Greek yogurt, a plastic spoon, and put both with two small ice packs in an insulated bag to keep them cold. And when we stopped at a gas station this morning, I picked up a container of colby jack cheese and sweet bologna – delicious, and also packed with protein. There was the candy bar, too, but I only ate half (the other half is going home to my kids).
Convenience food may be convenient, but when you pick convenience, you give up essential nutrients and must-have protein, and you’re also taking on many unwanted calories and fat grams.
Flipping through the photos of my childhood going into my teenage years and into my mid-twenties, right up until the year leading up to my weight loss surgery, this is the timeline:
- Chubby child
- Fat tween
- Obese teenager
- Morbidly obese adult
I don’t have a lot of my childhood photos on hand, and the earliest one I have is from when I was nine, but even then, you can see that I was overweight:
1995, still growing (and officially in need of a training bra, ugh):
1997, officially a teenager, and officially sporting a double chin:
1999, most definitely plus size, and far beyond the “just overweight” days (I’m not sure of my exact weight at this time, but I know I was wearing a 20/22 in women’s plus size clothing):
I’m not posting these photos as a reminder to myself of what I’ve come from – I’ve known since my pre-teens that I had a weight problem. I’m posting them more as a timeline, and more to show how such significant weight gain can be such a gradual process. From the adorably chubby preschooler can come an overweight child, who blossoms into an obese teenager, who evolves into a morbidly obese adult.
As a parent, I am disgusted with my mother’s “I had nothing to do with it” attitude in terms of my history with being overweight. To hear her tell it, it was all me: I was perfectly normal, perfectly average-sized, until I was a teenager, at which point I suddenly began “packing on the pounds”. Really? Take a look at those photos, and you tell me: did I look like a perfectly average-sized nine year old to you? I certainly don’t to me. Man, I wish I had a copy of my second grade school photo. I can picture it perfectly in my head – my slightly crooked adult teeth, which were still working their way in; my short bowl-style hair cut; the ribbons in my hair; and the pronounced, unsightly chubbiness to my face. The signs were there then, when I was a mere second grader. I was not average. I was overweight.
As a child, I wish my mother had been more proactive. I wish she had accepted responsibility then. It infuriates me now, as an adult who has had gastric bypass surgery, as an adult who made such a dramatic decision in order to reverse probably two decades worth of poor eating habits combined with a genetic pre-disposition to weight issues, to have a mother who refuses to accept that she failed me as a parent. I was a child. She had complete control over when I ate, where I ate, what I ate, and how much I ate. She made poor decisions for herself, and she made poor decisions for me. We both paid the price, but as a child who was dependent on her for proper care, I ultimately paid the bigger price, because I was a child not capable of making the right decisions, and I grew up in a lifestyle where I continued to make bad decisions and continued to ignore the outcome of those bad decisions, because the weight gain was so gradual it was almost easy to ignore, until one day I was 23 years old and I was too fat to ride in even the “fat seat” on a roller coaster, and then I was 24 years old and my knees ached when I got out of bed in the morning, and I suddenly realized that I was destroying myself, and destroying my husband’s wife, and my children’s mother, one fucking fat gram at a time.
As a parent, I have been doing, and will continue to do, whatever I can to ensure my children’s health – and because of my own history with being overweight, one significant health-related component is being conscious about what they’re eating and how much they’re eating. They’re weighed at every doctor’s visit, and I weigh them at home every 1-2 months. I do my best to provide healthy, nutritious meals most of the time (I say most because we all have our days where the meals are less than stellar due to being busy or lazy or sick), keep the sweets to a minimum, and promote healthy snacks and treats, and plenty of water.
I won’t lie: when I see an overweight child, I feel pity for the child, and while I try not to judge and while I try very hard to keep in mind that there could be a medical condition contributing to the child’s weight, my initial reaction is to want to shake the parents and scream at them to not ruin their children’s health and their bodies, to FIX the problem before it gets out of hand. Those dimples and rolls aren’t so cute on a ten year old or a fifteen year old or a twenty-five year old, not to mention that they represent unhealthiness.
The upside of summer is tank tops and shorts. The downside of summer is tank tops and shorts. I may no longer be morbidly obese, or even obese (I’m overweight, and at that rate just ten pounds away from being able to shake that status, whee!), but I do have some excess skin, mainly on my upper arms, as well as some around my abdomen, and a bit on my upper thighs. The result? I like wearing tank tops and shorts, but I don’t feel completely comfortable in them. That confidence you see me strutting around in? Totally faking it. But you know what they say – fake it until you make it.
I am ten pounds away from being out of the Overweight range on the BMI scale and into the Normal range. But for what it’s worth, I’m carrying around a good 8-10 lbs of loose skin on my upper arms, upper thighs (not too bad, but it’s there), and especially around my abdomen. I think that’s why I’ve been having so much trouble shaking the last few pounds – I’ve been stuck in the 162-165 lb range for over two months now, and it’s very frustrating to be SO. DAMN. CLOSE. to my goal of 160 lbs, yet SO. VERY. FAR. AWAY. I don’t want to give up now, not when I’ve come so far; but at the same time I’m tired of the battle.
In any case, I technically have 10 lbs to go until I’m at a weight – 154 lbs – where I can truly, technically consider myself to be at a “healthy” weight. Pssh. But seeing as how that’s the case, I guess I can forgive my dad for calling me fat. He didn’t do it meanly, or even like that, but he used words like “curvy” and “full-figured” and asked where I was shopping for my plus-size clothing at. Face palm, face palm, face palm. I wasn’t offended so much as I was just a little taken aback, because I thought that since he hadn’t seen me in TWO YEARS, and I had lost over 60 lbs since then (and when he had seen me two years ago, I was then a good 110 lbs lighter than I was the last time he had seen me!), he would have been leaning more in the direction of “Wow I can’t believe how much weight you’ve lost!” rather than “So where do you shop for fatty clothes nowadays?”
But I set him straight…nicely. Dan was chomping at the bit to defend me, but even he realized that my dad truly didn’t mean to insult me. Also, my dad isn’t quite right in the head (literally – he does have some mental issues, though the most prominent ones are OCD/anxiety/seasonal depression), and he is wearing prescription glasses that are over ten years old, so some concessions have been made.
But still… it’s not nice when your dad insinuates that you’re fat! I know I’m not skinny, and I’m definitely on the chubbier end of things… but I really don’t think I’m fat anymore… aside from the loose skin issue, which really makes me self-confidence plummet at times. Ergh.
Last week a neighbor of mine, who was two days away from her gastric bypass surgery date, asked me what I did for protein most days. I told her I did 2-3 protein shakes per day to make sure that I was meeting my minimum (60) “and then some” (my ideal is 80-90), and any food I consumed just provided bonus protein. She seemed surprised, and went on to tell me that most post-ops she had talked to had “already stopped” their protein. I told her flat out that realistically, there is no stopping protein shakes, because there’s no way we can consume enough food — without eating around the clock and risking stretching out our stomach pouches by overeating — in order to get the protein that we need. In which case, what’s the point in having had the surgery in the first place?
You may not like the protein shakes you’re drinking prior to surgery, to prepare your stomach and intestines for surgery, but get used to it. I did. I’ll be three years post-op this coming November, and you know what? I still don’t like protein shakes. But I treat them like I treat the vitamins I take four times a day: essential to my health. I use protein powders that offer 20g-30g of whey isolate protein per scoop, mix the powder with 4-6 oz of cold water, then drink the shakes as quickly as possible. I do this two to three times per day, and I move on. I don’t like it, but I don’t hate it. It is what it is, and I do what I have to do in order to stay healthy.