HAHIRA – This special, multi-part series will focus on one woman’s weight loss journey, and why she chose Bariatric surgery as a tool to help her live her healthiest life. Tune in every week and follow her amazing weight loss (85 pounds so far) and learn more about why this may or may not be the right choice for you.
Since I decided to have bariatric surgery, I’ve received lots of questions about my choice. I’ve done my best to answer all the questions I’ve received so far about my surgery, recovery, and current lifestyle.
Feel free to ask any others you may have! I don’t mind sharing my experience with you and I am not shy.
**I am NOT a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. Before making any medical or life-changing decisions, do your own research! Talk to Jesus, your physicians, and the Google (in that order). **
What exactly is gastric sleeve surgery?
I’m going to try to explain it as non-graphically as possible. Basically, this is a laparoscopic surgery where 4-6 incisions are made on your abdomen. One of these holes will be bigger than the rest because that’s where the excised part of your stomach will be removed. The surgeon will “staple” (not real staples, don’t freak out!) your stomach and remove the extra. Your new stomach will be about the size of a banana. So, the term “gastric sleeve” doesn’t refer to anything left inside you (like a sleeve). Whoever first did the surgery just thought it looked like a sleeve so that’s what he called it. Again, nothing is left inside other than the stitches that will dissolve over time.
What steps do you have to take before surgery?
This will be one of those things that depends on the surgeon. For my case, I was self-pay so I didn’t have to jump through any insurance company hoops (which is good because they tend to light their hoops on FIRE). However, I did have to be on “soft liquids” for a week before surgery and then clear liquids for the day before surgery. The soft liquids including low-fat cream soups, mashed potatoes, etc. The clear liquid diet is exactly what is sounds like: only clear liquids. Whew. Still so glad that part is behind me, “hangry” does not even scratch the surface of that experience. But just like any part of any process, it didn’t last forever!
How long was your recovery?
I had my surgery on a Thursday and was back to work on Tuesday. Now, that being said, I was not “normal” the day I went back to work. I was still on the liquid diet and moving pretty slowly. However, my job does not include heavy-lifting or extensive and continual movement. If your job includes any of these things, you may need a little longer for your abdomen wall to heal before you go back to work. Again, listen to your doctor.
Why gastric sleeve? Why not the balloon, gastric bypass, Lap Band, or other (non-surgical) weight loss option?
As mentioned in a previous post, I’ve tried just about every non-surgical option out there. None of them worked for me, long-term. I chose the vertical sleeve gastrectomy (gastric sleeve surgery) because I felt it was the right option for me. Just as you should choose the right option for you. I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of anything being left in me (i.e., balloon & Lap Band). Or having to go back and get my doctor to adjust those items that had been left inside (again, balloon & Lap Band). And, I didn’t take the gastric bypass route because the invasiveness and complexity freaked me out. I’m sure you’ve also heard all the horror stories related to weight loss surgery and it’s hard to forget them. Unfortunately, nobody ever tells you about their neighbor’s cousin’s fiancé’s sister who had it done and succeeded. But I’m here to tell you, there are success stories!
Did your insurance cover the surgery?
HAHAHAHA!!! No. My insurance does not cover any type of weight loss surgery, even if you have any co-morbidities (i.e., high blood pressure, diabetes, joint pain, etc.). Not to say that your insurance won’t, you’ll have to find that out for yourself. There’s no harm in calling though, you don’t know what “no” sounds like until you ask.
Will I be able to pick up my kids after surgery?
Most likely, not, at least for a little while. It’s not recommended to do any heavy-lifting for several weeks after surgery. Your body will have just gone through a pretty traumatic experience. While it isn’t too invasive, you still would have just had part of your stomach removed. Like, gone forever. Try to keep that in mind and don’t overdo it just because your “happy happy smile” pills are doing their job. Again, follow your doctor’s orders!
Do you exercise more now?
This is kind of a trick question because I never exercised before. But, the answer is still “not as much as I should” (sue me). I really only walk, I haven’t joined a gym or tried anything new just yet. Before surgery, everything hurt and I honestly just could not keep moving for extended periods of time. I’d also had back surgery in June of 2016 and, long story short, I hurt a lot. Now, though, my only real excuse is that I don’t make exercise I priority. I know, I know – such a terrible example I’m setting…
What about loose skin after major weight loss?
The general answer for people worried about loose skin is that if you didn’t have loose skin to start with, you probably won’t after weight loss either. However, if you do have loose skin and you want it removed – your insurance is not going to want to cover it. [insert gasp here] If you want to have any shot at your insurance company covering the cost of skin removal surgery, documentation is the key. Take pictures and make doctor’s visits so they can document it too, especially if the loose skin starts causing any type of skin problems (i.e., heat rash, etc.).
Aren’t you too young for weight loss surgery?
Well at 22, I was too young for back surgery but here we sit.
How long until you could eat/drink [insert unhealthy food/beverage here] again?
Ok, let me just throw this out there for the universe to ponder: Weight loss surgery is not the easy way out.
I’ll say it one more time for the folks in the back:
Weight loss surgery is NOT the easy way out.
If you go through all the research and decide weight loss surgery is for you, but then go into this surgery thinking it’s going to solve all your problems with no effort or changes on your part…darlin’, you’re about to get a rude awakening. This surgery was worse than back surgery for me. Yes, I was back to work in just a few days as opposed to a few months. BUT – I have basically had to relearn everything. How to eat, what my new stomach can and can’t handle, how long to separate eating and drinking, and a whole host of other new habits I’ve had to pick up (and old ones I’ve had to drop). And nobody tells you most of this stuff before you do it.
Most of the time, the people you’re talking to that have already been through it are at the “it’s the greatest thing I ever did” stage. Well let me tell you, it took me a while to get to that point. For the longest time, I kept asking myself “what in the world have you gotten yourself into?!” because I couldn’t see any light at the end of my tunnel.
Now, I’ve said all that to answer the question: How long until you could eat [insert unhealthy food here]? You can’t think like that. You can’t think that weight loss surgery is a quick fix. If you think you’ll still be able to eat the same crap you’re eating now, you will fail. If you introduce unhealthy foods before you hit your goal, you will likely fall short. Now, obviously, I am not perfect (hence, obesity). I’ve slipped and I veer (way) off track sometimes but I learned very quickly that I can’t keep eating that mess. Personally, I don’t feel deprived. The stuff I used to eat does not tickle my fancy like it used to, especially fried foods and pasta (except chicken wings, LAWD help!). I just physically cannot eat as much as I used to or it will come back out.
Which leads us to the next question.
How have your eating habits changed?
All those sweets and carbs just don’t appeal to me like they used to. Every once in a while, I wish I could eat some of the foods I used to (looking at you, spaghetti). But mostly, I can think for just a second about how much it disagrees with my new stomach and that alone is enough to just say no. It’s not worth it. While I DO NOT agree that “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” (cause, hello – chocolate, bread, pasta, should I go on…?), I do know that those foods don’t agree with me like they used to. If you can just say no to unhealthy food and walk away, I am so happy for you. That is a blessing on your life and I would kill to have that will power. But since I don’t, I had to have this permanent surgery that some people consider drastic measures. I had to have something to force me to not eat quality or quantity of food that I used to. And short of hiring someone to follow me around and slap food out of my hand, this was my only option.
What complications have you had post-op?
Again, relearning how and what to eat was (is) a major wake up call. I used to eat fairly quickly and now if I tried to do that, I’d be looking for the closest trash can. I can’t eat or drink at the same speed or quantity that I used to. Although, I really don’t consider this a complication. I consider it a God-send because without that slap-in-the-face side effect, I wouldn’t have been able to lose the weight or keep it off. One thing I have had trouble with is fluids. No matter how much I drink, I can’t seem to get enough. The more I’ve thought about it lately though, the more I realize that this might just be my new normal. Before surgery, if I was running behind on my water for the day, I would just chug a bottle in a few seconds. Friends, let me make something clear: you can’t chug ANYTHING after gastric sleeve surgery. Ever. But again, that’s not necessarily a complication. It’s just something I’ve had to get used to.
I hope these answers will help you if you may be considering weight loss surgery. Again, I can only speak for me and my experience so if you’re considering something other than the gastric sleeve, I can’t help you, but I can give you the number of the doctors who can!
If you have any questions that were not answered in this post, please feel free to ask me! You can send me a message or leave a comment below or message me on Facebook!