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.