Category Archives: bariatric surgery

Weight Loss Surgery Cheating 101

I’m writing this message for people thinking about, and those who’ve had, weight loss surgery (WLS), such as a Roux en Y, or the Sleeve. You (me too, I’m five years post-op) are making life-altering and significant decisions concerning your health. It’s natural to turn to those closest to you to discuss your choices and compare options. And when you do, you’re likely to run into someone who is going to tell you WLS is a way to “cheat” at losing weight.

It might be a family member, friend, co-worker, spiritual advisor, gym instructor, teacher, or even an acquaintance. She may have been your greatest cheerleader during every diet you’ve failed. He might be the one pressuring you to get thin. They may have watched your weight gain over the years and had plenty to say about it. But it’s pretty much assured that someone is going to say to you, “Surgery is taking the easy way out. C’mon, it’s really cheating.”

And after you’ve lost a significant amount of weight the same people will say, “My, you’ve changed. Where’s that sweet person I used to know?”

Okay, let’s take this step by step. In the first place, it’s not easy to realize that repeated failure is inevitable through traditional means. Oh sure, diets work until we reach our desired weight and begin to eat normally again, and compulsive exercise programs may shape and tone…until we get thinner and decide to skip a session or ten. You have stepped out of the box and recognized that it’s foolish to keep doing the same things time and again with predictably disappointing results – every pound you lost traditionally has come back and brought twenty more for good measure.

Secondly, who exactly are you cheating? And precisely how?

Are you cheating the person accusing you by taking their money under false pretenses? Perhaps they’re paying for your weight loss program, diet, and gym costs and think you’re dodging your responsibilities?

Maybe you’re swindling society at large because everyone’s physiology is obviously identical and those who no longer conform must struggle? Is dieting a competition you are fated to lose? Is it really depriving your community of anything if you choose to step out of a race you can’t win, place in, or even finish? Is dieting plus extreme exercise equals weight loss the only honest solution to a compulsory problem?

Or more insidiously, are you being accused of cheating yourself? Out of what; depression, health problems, discrimination, dismissiveness, rude behavior, cruel bullying, or early death?

Nonsense. Cheating, even short-cutting, permanent weight loss is impossible. It is not a game to be won, no score is being kept, no investor is paying for your weight loss and expecting a dividend. And duh, it’s impossible to cheat on yourself. As Yoda explained, you do or do not.

During the miraculous year following WLS when so many pounds melt away, you’ll get reactions ranging from praise and admiration, to curiosity, to shock and jealousy, the whole gamut. As strangers start being nice to you (another topic for another time), the bullies up their bullying.

It could be they’re resentful because you succeeded when they secretly bet against you, counting on you to fail this time as you always have before. Some, like alcoholics, might have thought of you as their eating buddy, the one they could always count on for a pig-out to make them feel better when they lost control because you did too. They may have always measured themselves as ‘better’ than you because thinner is the winner and you always outweighed them. Now they are bigger than you and they don’t like it for all the reasons I’ve mentioned and many more I haven’t. The happier you feel the more miserable they become.

They start saying snarky things to undermine you. The first is usually, “I don’t know you anymore. You’ve changed.”

Uh huh, duh. That was the plan, Fran.

You have changed, a lot. You’ve taken control of your own body and now manage its health in ways you never have before. They don’t know who you are anymore because you’ve made decisions far different than their own and much more difficult than they’ve ever managed.

You’ve learned a lot about your body, self-esteem, and the space you take up and it’s changed you. You’re not the same sad, lonely, self-deprecating, shrinking violet they knew before WLS. The days of pretending to be wallpaper so no one will look at you are over. You no longer hunger for acceptance or feel desperate for approval. You don’t need anyone to know your worth because you know it.

When asked where that sweet person they used to know has gone, I’ve answered, “I’m right here, stronger, healthier, and happier. Where’s that supportive sibling/friend/co-worker I used to know?”

If you’ve chosen WLS and someone accuses you of cheating or tries to belittle your accomplishments tell them, “Listen, you can either hop on board my Success Train or get out of my way. Either way, I’m moving on.”

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

 

How I Lost Eighty Pounds in One Year

b2bd2-fatsilhouetteI went from 237 lbs The Deed is Done, Dithering Done Withto 157 lbs 

from Dec. 15, 2015, to Dec. 15, 2016

Two-hundred-thirty-seven pounds is the highest weight on record for me, and that was taken a long time ago.  I’ve been heavier, I’m sure of it and I’ve been lighter, sometimes significantly so, but since I refused to be weighed at ninety-nine percent of my doctor appointments, there’s no record of it except the occasional photograph.

Struggling with my weight is a life-long endeavor. At eighteen months I got my first lesson in holding my stomach in; my diaper fell off. I’ve tried so many diets I can’t even remember them all. I’ve joined gyms, walked enough miles to fill a Fitbit, resized portions, tried hypnosis, therapy, and popped a zillion diet pills/cookies/candies and even expanding packets of some substance that was supposed to fill my stomach and then pass harmless through me. Since I never saw anything pass through me, I can only assume they were absorbed directly (ugg) or are still in there somewhere (oh yuck!).

I’ve lost weight, successfully I might add, many times in my lifetime, losing almost this much weight before, and lesser amounts as well.  All told, I’m sure I’ve gained and lost at least five hundred pounds over my lifetime. The yo-yo phenomenon was so cruelly automatic that I’ve completely lost faith in dieting as a permanent solution to obesity.

So, how did I finally do it? Well, if you’re hoping for an easy miracle, get ready to be disappointed.

I had bariatric surgery, a Roux en Y, to be exact.

Bariatric surgery reduces your stomach size and bypasses some of your intestines. This limits the amount you can eat at any one time and guarantees a really nasty sensation when you ingest too much sugar at once.

But perhaps more importantly, the medical group I went through insisted on thorough testing and comprehensive education about not only the procedure itself but also the other physical, psychological, and emotional changes that would take place as my body rapidly shed pounds. It took from October of 2014 until December 2015 while I was probed, tested, analyzed, educated, and had proved my deep conviction with four weeks of a liquid only diet to be approved for the final step, the operation itself.

I was in the operating room for over four hours while they undid my Nissan (a procedure that helped manage my GERD) and then performed the Roux en Y. Thank God I’d already had my gallbladder removed, or that would have taken yet another few hours.

I spent the next month on liquids only, then graduated to three months of blenderized-to-applesauce-consistency solids. I slowly reintroduced vegetables (so well cooked they were limply translucent) and ultra-lean meat back into my diet. Peanut butter became my best friend and the only taste of sweetness (outside of diet applesauce) in my world. I survived a Christmas feast while still on a liquid diet, a candy-less Valentine’s to avoid the dreaded ‘dumping’ syndrome, a quarter cup of Easter dinner, Fourth of July cookouts that consisted of one hotdog, various birthdays with a forkful of cake, and a child-sized plate at Thanksgiving. Twice I left the country, only to severely limit my tastes of foreign cuisine.

The fat melted away so rapidly I missed the chance to wear clothing long hanging in my closet in case I ever fit into them again. Before I knew it, nothing I owned fit me.

My entire life changed. I feel healthier now than I ever have in my life. I learned things about myself and our society I never knew, discovered for myself the differences between the way large and smaller people are treated, and experienced emotions that surprised me. I also suffered a sense of depression and disappointment directly at odds with my success.

But this post has gone on long enough. I’ll share more about my journey another time. For now, let me just say this:

I lost more than weight and gained more than self-esteem.

Check back soon for more about my journey from being morbidly obese to hearing the magic words from my doctor, “You’re no longer overweight.”

 

Domain Domination

70576238You know that moment? The one when you realize you should have gotten a bill, but haven’t seen it? That happened to me two months back when I forgot to check an old email account and didn’t find the reminder to renew my old domain name: gentasebastian{dot}com until one (1) day after the renewal period ended. When I contacted the registration people, they said it would cost over a hundred dollars to get it back, or I could wait until July 27th and re-register it.

Well, I waited. Who else would want a website with my distinctive name, anyway? Over a hundred dollars doesn’t come easy these days, and it didn’t seem like a problem. I spent the time moving from Blogger to WordPress and updating the blog. When the day finally arrived, I tried registering it, but was told it was ‘taken’. That’s the same message I’d gotten the other three times I’d tried during the waiting period, so I figured I was early. I tried later that day, and again the next.

Finally, I typed in the URL and found a weight-loss scam has bought my name! I’m guessing they thought I had a large following because of an anomaly of visitors when I blogged about my bariatric weight loss.

Well, it’s infuriating. Not only did I have to register the less direct gentasebastian-author.com, I have to chase down all the links I’ve scattered across the netosphere and change them. AND I need to apologize to YOU who try to get to my site to learn about my books and instead find yourself being sold a suspect weight loss program. I DO NOT ENDORSE THEIR PRODUCT, and I am most sincerely sorry if you’ve been subjected to it, quite literally, in my name.

But…isn’t the new place sparkly? I hope you enjoy looking around, and welcome back to the same old website, albeit with a brand new domain name.

 

 

Bariatric Surgery Success!

Today it will have been exactly four months since my Roux en Y or gastric bypass surgery. Next week will make it a year since I started this amazing journey.

I’ve lost fifty-two pounds. My blood pressure is lower, my arthritis less painful, and my triglycerides are behaving themselves. I no longer use the C-PAP machine, or take medicine for gout. I haven’t had a bout of Plantar’s fasciitis or bone bruises for months.

Has it been easy? Hell, no. I spent a month (2 weeks before and 2 weeks after surgery) on a completely liquid diet. When you look forward to some sugar-free applesauce so you’ll at least have something to kinda chew, that’s hard. And, of course, my surgery was scheduled for mid-December, completely eclipsing the usual Christmas celebrations. And as much as I wanted the surgery, I hated how it tied my family and friends up in knots, making them tip-toe around me, not eating things they wanted, afraid to tempt me to do something to spoil my plans. As often as I reminded them that I’d CHOSEN to do this, and they should eat normally, they saw the liquids and mushed up food and felt bad for me. I kept telling them that next year I’d be eating with them, just much smaller portions and they should enjoy themselves.

Their support meant so much to me, however. They watched me go to endless doctors appointments and be tested for everything under the sun from breast cancer, to sleep apnea, to a colonoscopy. I was examined inside and out. I still laugh about how shocked I was when a doctor first lifted the folded over part of my belly to examine the skin underneath. It felt like such an invasion of privacy… LOL Little did I know what was in store.

I went through a plethora of emotions and was surprised by their vehemence. Hope warred with despair, anger fought with appreciation, and through it all, I held the deep conviction that I would fail yet again. My wife was terrified of the actual surgery but repeated several times that she supported whatever decision I made. She survived the four-hour wait during the surgery, and hers was the first face I saw when I woke.

I’ve handled the healing phase well. The wounds are all scarred and have lost their purplish hue. Although I’ve had to deal with excessive gas (and the resultant hours of walking) when experimenting with raw vegetables, I’ve managed to escape – knock on wood – the ‘dumping’ I’d been warned about. I needed to travel only a few short weeks following the surgery, but even that went well. The flight crew weren’t happy about my rising and walking the length of the plane every half-hour, but they preferred that to blood clots.

Because I was so busy for the first month and a half, it came as an almost sudden surprise when my entire wardrobe stopped fitting me. I sorted out those I could still get away with, and bagged up the rest. When it came to donating them to charity, though, I just couldn’t do it. Part of me still expects to gain back the weight, just like I have after every single diet in my life. They’re upstairs in the attic, but I may put them out for a spring yardsale… maybe.

I’ve learned a lot about myself, and I’m still learning. I’ve also learned an awful lot about other people and the way they treat people based on stereotypes. But more about that, next time…