I had mentioned in a previous post that I had had gastric bypass surgery and one of my regular followers commented that she didn’t know that about me…yes, Nana has a few stories that haven’t been told!
Eight years ago I weighed 285 pounds, maybe more. I had stopped weighing myself and didn’t look at the scale in the doctor’s office. I delayed trips to the doctor because I wanted to avoid the lecture about weight that I knew I would receive. My irrational thinking had me delaying appointments with the doctor for a week, then two weeks, and then months had gone by. By the time I finally made an appointment I was due for two lectures…weight and not making my regular appointment.
I had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and was taking the maximum dosage of oral medication. My doctor warned me that I had to lose weight or start taking insulin.
I tried every diet. I did Optifast, the liquid diet that Oprah once had some brief success with. I tried Nutrisystems. I did Atkins. I was a Weight Watchers repeat offender. I never managed to stick with a program long enough to drop the significant amount of weight that I needed to lose and as soon as I fell off the diet wagon, I gained the lost weight and more back.
My doctor casually suggested gastric bypass and without doing any reading or research, I made an exploratory appointment with a surgeon in a neighboring community. I had to have a lot of pre-op tests; there were lots of hoops to jump through, and mountains of paperwork. My insurance at the time, Blue Cross of Oregon, wouldn’t cover the surgery even though I had significant weight related health problems. My husband’s insurance, Blue Cross of California, did cover it. I think California is more body conscious; they’d pay to get rid of fat!
A few weeks after the first mention of gastric bypass, I was stripped down in the surgical ward at Kennewick General Hospital waiting for my turn to go under the knife. I remember wondering if it was too late to back out. Everything had moved so fast and all of a sudden I was having surgery. I didn’t worry about dying. I worried about having a tiny stomach and a huge appetite and driving myself crazy because I always wanted more.
The surgery was brutal. I spent three days in intensive care and came home on day six. At first I could keep nothing down, not water, not soup, nothing. I worried about how I would be able to sustain myself once the excess weight was lost. How would I ever consume 1,500 calories a day? For the first few weeks the only thing I could keep down was Slurpees. Gradually I learned how to eat. I could only manage two or three bites of solid food. If I had more, it would come right back up. I learned that I could have food or I could have a beverage; I couldn’t have both. I was used to having a glass of milk with dinner, not anymore. If I have a glass of milk, I have no room left for food. The response to over-eating is immediate and forceful. I learned to immediately recognize the signal and I learned the consequence of ignoring it…and then I finally learned to honor it.
Gastric bypass surgery changed my life. For the first time in my life I have an off switch. Prior to the surgery I had a bottomless pit. I could eat and eat and never feel satisfied. I have learned to make choices in what I eat because I can’t have it all. Sometimes I make good, healthy choices and sometimes I only have room for dessert. I’ve learned to eat the best part of the steak first. Those four small bites of tenderloin are all I have room for. If I eat salad and bread with a meal, I won’t have room for the main course. I have to decide what I really want and eat it first, because there’s only room for that first choice. I have to make better choices because my capacity is limited.
Over time my capacity for food has gradually increased. I still can’t eat a three course meal, but I can have a little salad, a little bread, and a little bit of a main entrée…but there’s never room left for dessert. I’m living proof that it is still possible to gain weight after gastric bypass. I can’t eat much at one time, but I can eat a little all day long. I need to pay attention to what I eat and resist grazing. I still need to make healthy choices. The gastric bypass did not cure my sweet tooth.
A lot of the fat melted away, but the skin doesn’t bounce back to its pre-fat form. My surgeon said I would be back under the knife for a tummy tuck to remove the belt of sagging skin around my middle. He was wrong. For me the gastric bypass was about getting control of eating, not vanity.
It has been eight years and I am at a healthier weight. I could stand to lose a few pounds, but my doctor is no longer lecturing me. I am on a minimal dosage of medication for Type 2 diabetes. My blood pressure and cholesterol are under control. The long term impact of gastric bypass is still a topic debated in medical journals, but it has been successful for me.
Sometimes when I am out shopping I see grossly obese people and want to tell them about gastric bypass. It is not an easy answer. It is painful and expensive and carries a medical risk. But, it worked for me.