12 REASONS TO GET BARIATRIC SURGERY SOONER RATHER THAN LATER – part II

belly-2473_1920Welcome back to my four-part series about what I’ve learned over the last two and a half years following bariatric surgery. Following my Roux-en-Y, I reminded myself to pay attention to my body, my emotions, and my experiences. The first three reasons why I believe now I would have been better off getting the surgery in my youth are in part one. Here are reasons 7-9.

9.   LESS MEDICATION

Growing old ain’t for sissies and the health issues that accompany morbid obesity begin to take their toll earlier rather than later. There is damage to my joints and spine that directly correlates to carrying around eighty extra pounds for decades. I’ve been plagued with plantar fasciitis, early-onset arthritis, and bad knees that only got worse. The damage to my body led to more and stronger medication over the years.

I hoped to get rid of many of them by having the surgery, but only 70% can significantly reduce their medication and it seems I’m in the unlucky 30%. I do sleep without the c-pap machine strapped to my face now, though, so yippee for that.

8.    SIMPLE EVERYDAY TASKS ARE EASIER

Not to be indelicate, but just using the restroom is far easier, especially public ones with tiny stalls. I don’t have to scoot in sideways and worry about what germs might linger on walls various parts of me used to touch. I don’t have to wait for the handicapped stall and then suffer the judgmental glances of skinnier women I usher past me to the smaller ones.

And in the shower, I can easily wash parts of me that formerly took acrobatic acts of skill to reach. My daily shower time is half what it used to be, as is my water bill. Although I’m drinking about five times as much water as before the surgery, so maybe it isn’t, after all.

I go down to the basement and up to the attic twice as often as I used to and don’t worry about trying to carry as much as I can manage in one trip because I’m not afraid to go up or down for a second load.

I can stand in the kitchen to prepare the family dinner without having to take a break and sit down to rest my back. No one, least of all me, thought I’d be cooking so much post-surgery. My family more or less expected I’d leave the cooking to them, but I still watch the Food Network and the Chew (bye bye, sob sob) and have as much interest in the process as ever. I may eat way smaller portions, but my family are thrilled that I still cook their favorite recipes.

And much to my wife’s chagrin, I can shop as long as anyone these days. And with more selection in clothes and shoes, I’m much more eager to do so.

7.    PEOPLE ARE NICER

Yes, I know I mentioned this before, but now I’m talking about friends, specifically straight friends. Sure, they were kind to me before and they still are, but their ways of being kind have changed. They respect me more now that I’ve achieved this significant weight loss and have kept it off for so long. They now turn to me for dieting advice and commiseration instead of offering it.

Straight women seem to feel camaraderie over the struggle and occasionally envy my success. I believe this is because almost every woman struggles, at one time or another, to lose weight in our overly judgmental America. Even after menopause, we are urged to be physically attractive as potential sexual partners for men (misogynistic claptrap – a topic for another day) and are judged by a strict scale of youthfulness and societal norms of beauty.

If there’s been a few months between visits, my straight girlfriends almost always mention it and ask if I’m still losing or exclaim over how much I’ve lost. At first, I was surprised by this but then I realized that, having been obese for the better part of sixty years, they’ve identified me so completely with being large that my new appearance surprises them every time they see me.  Oddly enough, my LGBT+ friends adapted to my new look much faster and no longer comment on it, probably because I’m not identified as strictly by appearance/gender norms.

To some of my older friends, I will always be ‘tagged’ in their brains as ‘the fat lesbian’ no matter how much they may like me. They’ve been conditioned to identify ‘otherness’ and both criteria fit when they met me.

Because I’ve slipped the American societal noose of fatness, I’ve done what very few others achieve, and their minds rebel at having to shift labels. That’s okay with me. Call me this, call me that, but don’t…

…call me late for supper.

Catch you next week for the third part of my four-part series. Drop me a comment and let me know what you think of my musings.

2017 Terceira

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12 REASONS TO GET BARIATRIC SURGERY SOONER RATHER THAN LATER

  2017 Terceira.jpg

Tomorrow marks two and a half years since my Roux-en-Y. I’ve learned a few things about myself and our society. This is the first of a four-part series explaining why, for me, it would have made sense to get bariatric surgery forty years ago.

Before anyone goes off on me – I am NOT saying everyone who is overweight should lose it. That is a medical decision which only you can make, I hope with the advice of a wise physician (or four). Many very healthy people carry extra weight around and I’m pleased as punch for them that they’re not suffering as I did.

I’d tried various diets since childhood and can proudly say that I am an EXPERT dieter. I’ve lost anywhere from twenty to eighty pounds utilizing fad diets, food supplements, and rigorous exercise programs. Unfortunately for me, diets worked only until I’d lost the weight. Then, once I started receiving approval and congratulations for having accomplished such a challenging task, I’d relax my strict (self-hatred driven) dieting behavior. Gradually, I’d relapse into my old eating habits regaining everything I lost and adding more (my body’s way of protecting me from these periodic episodes of starvation). Over the years and in total, I estimate I’ve lost close to five hundred pounds and gained closer to six hundred, a very bad habit that’s placed a lot of stress on my body. Bariatric surgery is the only way I’ve ever lost this much weight and kept it off this long. There’s no guarantees I’ll stay this weight forever, but 2.5 years is two years longer than any weight loss prior.

Please do not interpret my experiences as medical advice. If you are overweight and are unhappy about it, please talk to a doctor about all your options before making life changing decisions. These are merely my own experiences. Yours will be completely different.

So, here we go:

12. PEOPLE ARE NICER

I’m talking about strangers, here. While I weighed in the mid-two-hundreds (from my early twenties to late fifties), I understood that people were nicer to slender women, but I had no idea how much nicer they were. If I’d known people who’ve never met me before and will never see me again, could be so considerate, polite, and charming I’d have considered this procedure forty years ago.

Seriously, my life might have been SO MUCH more pleasant. Instead, I got judgmental glances, called rude terms, asked if I were pregnant, turned down for jobs, and given unwanted and unnecessary advice. It got so bad that when I’d see a new doctor for the first time I’d start the initial visit by saying, “I know I’m morbidly obese, but that’s not why I’m here…” and still I’d be told that if I’d just lose weight I wouldn’t have any health issues.

Um, seriously? C’mon, skinny people get high blood pressure, slender folks can suffer gout and sleep apnea, and lithe human beings still live with chronic depression. I bet their new doctor’s first words aren’t, “Lose weight, it all stems from there.” And doctors weren’t the only ones doling out advice. Complete strangers felt justified recommending diets, exercise workout routines, weight-loss programs, all without once being asked.

Every time someone was rude, or unkind, or judgmentally preachy, I spent time stewing over the situation and wondering if I really deserved that kind of attention. Without spending so many hours miserably contemplating my imagined failures, I could have gotten much more done AND been more in the mood to do so.

Of course, I also could have gotten therapy to help me deal with my low self-esteem issues, as well. But instead, I dieted, lost weight, received approval, regained all the lost weight and more, and repeated the process for decades.

11. HAIR LOSS

Bariatric surgery deeply affects the entire body, and when it’s accompanied by either gallbladder removal or as in my case, undoing a Nissan fundoplication, it really throws the body for a loop. Think about it, part of your stomach is being amputated and your digestive/evacuation system is being re-routed. That’s a lot of cutting and stitching, and it takes time for your body to heal and get used to utilizing energy in new ways.

Your hair falls out. The body is marshalling its resources and your hair is not ranked as a high priority compared to surviving and adjusting to a very serious surgery. By waiting until I neared sixty to have the bariatric surgery, I put it off until my hair already began thinning. I did take biotin for six weeks before and am still taking it years after the surgery, but my hair will never be the same again. The thick, luxurious locks of my youth would have suffered a bit but rallied sooner and more fully if I’d had the Roux-en-Y in my twenties.

10. IT’S EASIER TO CHANGE YOUR LIFESTYLE

Okay, I’ll admit it. Getting older means becoming set in your ways and bariatric surgery demands change. You’ve got to adjust to much smaller and smarter portion sizes and food choices. You’ve got to make food a lower priority and learn a healthier way of living and breathing as much as eating and exercising. I listen to my body in ways I never have before and try to react in time to save myself from disaster.

Stomachs, for better or worse, are flexible. They grow larger if stretched and shrink if starved. Bariatric patients who are not careful, or have difficulties following surgery, or who just plain regret the permanent change they’ve made, can re-stretch that malleable organ right back to a large enough size to put back on all the weight and more. It’s easier than you think to regain all the pounds you lost, unless you CHANGE the way you live.

I’m fighting forty-five years of self-abuse and unlearning a half-century of bad and deeply ingrained habits. It would have been far easier to switch to better ways before I fell prey to so many unhealthy habits.

So, now you know the first three reasons why I believe bariatric surgery in my twenties would have been a good idea. My reasons may not be valid for everyone else, but after living post-op for two and a half years, I know they are for me.

Check back  soon, as I’ll be posting reasons 9-6 sometime in the next week.

 

 

 

Bariatric Surgery 2.5

80 Pounds
Amazing! I’m still startled by the change.

I know! Can you believe it? It’s over three years since I started the journey and two and a half since I underwent bariatric surgery. Following a full year of preparation and education, my excellent surgeon performed two procedures, undoing a Nissen fundoplication before the Roux-en-Y. The entire surgery took the better part of four hours.

I was an excellent patient and the weight dropped off as I recovered from the surgery and adjusted to a new lifestyle. At first it was just a matter of coping with the side-effects of a zero carb/high protein diet (dizziness, oh my goodness). Then the longing for solid foods became so overwhelming I resorted to blenderizing ground beef and refried beans, ugly as sin and twice as satisfying. I remember the celebration when I could finally eat a full cup of food per meal! I still eat on salad plates and use smaller utensils to remind me of portions and chewing… chewing… such a blessing.

At my lowest weight, taken one year post-op, I’d lost eighty pounds. Since then I’ve regained 7 stubborn pounds, but I can live with them. So I lost a lot and regained a little.

footdrop
Genta Sebastian visiting the island of Terceira 2017

I also gained a lot of insight into what weight means for an older woman and have lost some respect for our society, all of which will be the subject of several blog posts over the summer.

What have I learned? A lot more than I thought possible. Have I changed? Not as much as I expected. Join me as I try to express the thoughts that have gathered since I started this life-changing journey.

Isn’t that the way for authors? It’s not real until I put it down in words.  So watch for the first of a series I’m calling:

12 REASONS TO GET BARIATRIC SURGERY SOONER RATHER THAN LATER