As you have probably seen in the media, weight loss surgery is becoming quite common among regular people and celebrities alike. You have probably been bombarded with success stories focusing on the weight that was lost, but not many people seem to talk about all the challenges that come with the transformation. Here are just a few of the not so talked about parts of Weight Loss Surgery.
People will always be shocked by your portion sizes no matter how hard to try to minimise it
One thing that I was anticipating was that people would notice how little I seemed to eat per sitting. I had actually written a list of potential explanations/excuses to give if this situation ever happened. That being said, I hadn’t prepared myself for restaurant staff to reject those excuses or to insist on knowing what is wrong with the meal. During my first ‘post-op’ outing they refused to serve me a half portion (despite my offer to pay full price for the half portion) and the service staff would not leave our table alone because ‘I had barely touched my food’. It was highly embarrassing, to say the least, and was the first time ‘post-op’ I had felt like I was no longer normal.
During the moment, I had forgotten that restaurants typically give rather large portions compared to what would be considered a healthy or correct portion.
Over the years, I have refined the art of this little social situation quite nicely (for the most part). Some of my favorite local restaurants will even provide me with ‘doggie bags’ because they understand that I don’t have a normal stomach capacity anymore). Never be afraid to ask for a takeaway container or for smaller portions – just be prepared for a potential scene from staff who don’t understand your request or reasoning.
PRO TIP: A great way to avoid people noticing your food intake is to get a shared meal when in a group! This way service staff won’t be fretting about your meal 😀
Oh! You might also find plain water harder to drink than usual too. For the first few months after my Gastric Bypass I could only drink water if it was flavoured (this is how my love of tea was discovered).
Your sense of taste & smell will dramatically change after the surgery
This is something you are warned about when preparing for the surgery, but it is dramatic to say the least (at least in my case). Food will taste different than you remember from the ‘bad old days’. Everything will have an unbelievably intense aroma for the first few weeks in particular too.
To give you an idea of how intense your sense of smell is (at least in the first month or so) is a little anecdote of the drive home after my surgery discharge with my mother. The surgery week was absolutely exhausting for my mother and I – the stress of me having such a major operation as my first ever surgery plus the daunting 200km drive home on a bumpy highway with minimal pain relief. We were both exhausted – me from the surgery and coming out of my first general anesthetic and my mum from lack of sleep about the surgery I was having at the young age of 22 years.
On the way home from the hospital mum pulled in to a highway McDonald’s drive-thru and as soon as we pulled up to the window the smell completely overwhelmed me. I had to open the passenger door as I was dry reaching from the smell (an equally painful experience considering it was barely 24 hours since I had the surgery). It was like I had my nose right over the deep fryer while surrounded by sugary bread and off-smelling meat. An experience and scent I will not soon forget!
As for changes to your diet, is like blindly guessing a strangers food preferences without knowing anything about them. That or trying to transition a baby onto regular food then dealing with the toddler phase ‘I hate this’ reaction within a 8 week window (and beyond). Then add to the mix the Russian Roulette of potentially experiencing the dreaded ‘Dumping Syndrome’.
That awkward moment when food just doesn’t sit right (Dumping Syndrome)
Ah, Dumping Syndrome – my eternal foe it seems. For those who are not familiar with the term, it is a collection of rather nasty temporary symptoms that will sometimes occur after a bariatric patient (that’s someone who has had their digestive system altered via surgery) experiences severe discomfort after eating. It can range from mild to damn near unbearable, I have even passed out a few times from the symptoms! Thankfully, this is a temporary ‘reaction’ that passes after a few hours – phew!
The way I explain how it feels to ‘virgin stomachs’ (people who haven’t had their stomach altered) is tell them:
“Imagine the worst food poisoning you have ever had, then combine that feeling with the sudden urge to go to the bathroom while feeling like you are in a hot sauna… Oh, and don’t forget the stomach ache where it feels like you have eaten too much pasta and add the exhaustion you feel after a bad day at work.”
It isn’t an enjoyable experience, to say the least, most times I use the exhaustion to take a nap while the symptoms pass. Sometimes I will have to force myself to throw up, but that can be rather painful and exhausting – however, sometimes that makes you instantly feel back to normal.
With time and experience, you will notice a pattern of what foods trigger this reaction and learn to avoid them. Sometimes it can catch you off guard with ‘safe’ foods, but that could be due to the food being bad or simply eating too quickly. The best advice anyone can give you about this lovely part of post-op life is to LISTEN TO YOUR SURGEON AND DIETICIANS INSTRUCTIONS!!!! Not only will following their instructions make the surgery a success most of the time, it will benefit your health! (which is the ultimate goal after all, right?)
You can never trust a fart (yeah, it’s gross but true)
Do I really need to go into the details of what this means?
Your digestive system has dramatically changed and for the few months it honestly feels like you have been put into a strangers body in the beginning. Just treat any funny feelings down there as worst case scenario and you will save yourself a world of embarrassment.
You get a weird body signal just before you are full
Pay close attention when eating food, you will eventually notice that you always seem to do something just before you feel full. Personally, I will always yawn or sigh out of nowhere towards the end of a meal – it is actually a little indicator my body does to tell me I have eaten enough.
This little signal is different for everyone, some people will get watery eyes while others will even sneeze! Eventually you will pick up on what yours is, but once you know it you should probably listen to your body (again, this is something that the surgeon in particular will stress to you).
Post-Op life is mentally draining – you are constantly battling your old self
This is probably the hardest part of any weight loss transformation. You will always have that little part of you that instantly thinks “I won’t fit in that” or “That will break if I sit on it”. You will always have to face your old habits and train yourself mentally to recognise the ‘new you’ in the mirror. Some days you will see your old self in the mirror, and other times you will worry that you shouldn’t be so thin.
It took me 2 years to comprehend that my body shape had changed, I had to overhaul my entire wardrobe and to this day I still struggle with that change.
Another thing that can be mentally draining is the constant awareness when it comes to medications – bypass patients in particular. Since my bypass there are so many medications I must avoid at all costs, and it can be hard to keep track of it.
The biggest tip I could give anyone about their weight loss transformation is to remember how to laugh at yourself. If I hadn’t started joking about my ‘little pouch’ in the first few weeks I probably would have a very negative view by now. My friends and I are always making little jokes about my bypass, plus it is a great way to break the ice with the topic when people at work start to question your eating habits.
If you were nodding along while reading this article or even got a giggle out of it, comment below and share your story!