If you’ve been considering having weight-loss surgery, you’ve probably been reading other people’s stories and looking at their progress photos, thinking “Wow, I want to be thinner/healthier/whatever reason you’re considering it”. People who post about their journey typically show their before and after photos; the before photo could typically be a full body photo of them before surgery or just shortly after surgery, while the other photo– the after photo– is them a couple of months later, even a year or two since having the surgery.
It’s great to see how life changing this surgery is for other people. People who couldn’t lose the weight on their own or just have a difficult time managing their weight finally feel in control with their weight. As a person going through the same progress as many WLS patients, all I can say is that you should feel proud for making it this far into your journey. The things we had to do to get to this point; the testing, the appointments, and just getting up to go to the hospital on your surgery day takes a lot of courage!
By all means, talk about the proud moments you have being in the position you’re in. Be proud of your progress and talk about your hard work to get where you’re currently at…
But do not pretend that there’s no lows in this journey.
Hi, my name is Liz, and the last two months have been the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows.
I feel like many people think that the low points are when you’re in recovery; they think the grace period of recovery is the worst to come and when you’re feeling better, that’s where those lows end. Absolutely not.
I’m not going to sugarcoat anything; these last two months sucked to a certain degree. Not only am I learning how to eat differently to adjust to my new stomach, but there’s still so much psychological changes that come with the physical changes. I’ve always been real on this blog, so let me tell you what the lows truly are in this journey, since no one else has and/or I had to find out the hard way.
Anxiety Surrounding Food
When I first started the WLS Program, I was required to speak to their specialized psychologist in order to get cleared for surgery. AT first, I didn’t understand why this process would require a clearance from a mental health specialist, but boy I do now. Now living my life post-surgery has really made my anxiety come out a lot more when it comes to food. As many of you already know, I deal with major depression and an anxiety disorder, and as something drastic like weight loss surgery can be quite triggering for a person with one.
You’ll have anxiety over food because you will feel a couple of things:
- You will feel like you’re under-eating since you don’t feel hungry most of the time and/or eat and feel fuller for longer.
- Some days, you will feel hungrier than others. There will be some days where you barely eat.
- If you feel too hungry and then immediately eat too fast, you will get sick.
- Bad food for you (even if you don’t know) = puking.
For me, my anxiety really revolves around these points, especially when I’m experimenting with new foods I can add to my diet. Trust me, you think you’ll feel fine eating eggs, tuna, salad, and soup but man that meal plan gets tired real quick. So, the anxiety around the trial and error of trying new food always gives me great anxiety. I tend to try a lot of new foods while I’m at work and get extremely nervous when I do so. Most of the time I’m perfectly fine, but other times… well, you get the picture.
Stagnant Weight Loss
One of the misconceptions people have about WLS is that the weight will come off quick. While it does come off pretty quickly (i.e. me losing 30 pounds since the surgery) at the very beginning, it’s not always going to be that way. It’s different for every person who undergoes WLS, but it’s pretty normal for people to have moments where you’re at the same weight for a little bit longer. At first, it feels like failure. You think you’re doing something wrong, you start nitpicking the things you eat and obsessively weigh yourself to see if things change within the week or so. There’s this misconception that once you have the surgery, you’re supposed to just continuously lose weight (which is true), but it’s not supposed to be as quickly as people assume. In the two months since having surgery, I’ve lost about 30 pounds, which is about 9% of my body fat. While I didn’t think that was high enough considering it’s been two months, my doctor’s reassured me that’s typical for many WLS patients at this point in their journey.
Again, it’s different for every person, but the point of having WLS in the first place is to get some assistance and special help in losing weight. Just because it’s not happening as quickly as people assume or think how quickly it’s supposed to be, remember that this is your journey, and it’s going to be only unique to you.
Getting Sick Long After the “Recovery” Phase.
When I was first sent home from the hospital and was getting used to the new way to eat and stuff, I found myself getting sick a lot. At first, it felt like the “getting full” sensation, and while before surgery I was able to get full and be okay, I soon realized that the “full” sensation I felt wasn’t going to be the same feeling I had before surgery. I learned the hard way, and still do.
I feel like people think you only get sick when you’re in the recovery phase. Like, the recovery phase is the only phase you’re supposed to have trail and error moments and that once you’re officially out of recovery, you should know your body and prevent it from getting sick. That is not true. Recovery is just the beginning stages of getting to know your body better and knowing the different signals your body gives off when it does.
The fact of the matter is that there’s always going to be good days and bad days. The good days are days where you can perfectly detect when you are full before getting to the point where you’re too full and need to throw up. The bad days are days that I could barely keep down any food that I would normally like; I only can eat three bites and call it a meal, and still get sick. These days are not limited to the recovery phase; if anything, they last a lifetime. They will happen on days where you try new foods in hopes that they sit with you well, but slowly realizing you’re feeling sick and need to get it out of your body. They will happen on days where you think your body is able to handle that one extra bite of food until you find yourself sitting on the bathroom floor, hoping that this feeling will pass. They will happen on days where you’ve gotten to know your body so well, but then there’s that one day where you just eat something and it doesn’t settle well with you.
It sucks knowing that during any meal you have, you can get sick, but it;s just something you accept and allow your body to respond the way it does. I’m not saying “eat like shit and get used to puking”, I’m saying that if you eat a little too much, fast, or just eat something that doesn’t settle well in your stomach, it’s bound to come back up. Sadly, it’s just how your stomach is now made to work; it can’t keep everything in your stomach, so it has to come out one way or another.
Post-Surgery Depression is a real thing for a lot of WLS patients, and I am one of them that it affects. Since I am already phone to major depression, the post-surgery depression just hits harder. I cried in the shower the other night because I have moments where I miss my old lifestyle. I sometimes miss having to eat whatever I want and actually enjoy my meals. There are times where I am around friends and family and I can’t have what everyone else is having because I simply can’t. I think about my 28th birthday coming up in January, and I just wonder what’s even the point of having a birthday cake for the person who can’t have birthday cake? Do we just have the cake for others to enjoy it on my birthday? I understand how stupid and pathetic these scenarios sound, but these are just everyday thoughts I have being a WLS patient. How many times will I have to tell those around me that it’s okay to eat food around me? How many times will I have to sit at a gathering and have people feel bad that I can’t eat what they are having. In all honesty, I appreciate when people think of me in situations like that, but the fact of the matter is that people will forever think about me, and although most of the time I am okay and can be around people eating things I wish I could too, there are minor times when I miss the connection I had with people in a gathering where we are eating the same food.
On top of all the lows I’ve mentioned before, I understand how grateful I am to have this opportunity to even get the surgery and have a chance to change my life for the better. I know that in the long run, these lows would be worth it because I will feel better and more of my age as the weight continues to go down. To be at the weight that I was when I was 22 years old; I never thought I would able to see that weight again. So, I’m grateful. Thankful. Optimistic for the future, but I will not go on this journey without letting you guys know the ugly behind the beauty of this situation. It’s not just a before and after photo. It’s not a quick fix, and it’s not something you should take lightly if considering this surgery.
There are lows in this process. Maybe I’m just more comfortable expressing those lows in my process, but for anyone considering WLS, be aware that although its an amazing opportunity to better your life, it’s not as easy as everyone makes it out to be.
These are my lows, the WLS lows that no one told me.