*iPhone pic from my 6 month mark
Yesterday was 8 months since I had gastric bypass surgery. I wrote about the decision to have surgery here.
I started writing this post for the 6 month mark – but I’ve struggled. Writing about these deep emotions hasn’t come easily.
Although I thought I would write a lot more about the entire experience along the way, I’ve only written about it a few times. The Big Blue Bus Tour was conceived when I was just 2 1/2 months post surgery and has pretty much taken over our lives. I just reread my 10 week update and I realize why I haven’t written much since then. With the exception of how much weight I’ve lost, I could have written that post today.
I’ve lost 85 pounds. Our family has been working to be physically active each day. Whether it’s a family walk or a hike or a jog. I’m continually surprised at how much easier it is for my body to move. 85 pounds has made an incredible difference. As we ran along the beach, I reveled in the feeling. Freedom.
After years of living a sedentary lifestyle, I have to make a conscious decision to move. It doesn’t come naturally yet, but each activity brings it closer to the norm. I need to set a goal – a 10k or something – that I can be working towards.
If I can be honest, another reason I haven’t written is because of the depth of emotion I’ve gone through during the process. I don’t think I understood how emotionally taxing this experience would be. Yet in an incredibly healthy way.
I have had to process emotions in a manner I was not familiar with – without food. One month after surgery, I had one particular breakdown over some drama with one of my sisters who hurt me terribly. I stood in my kitchen and I bawled. I will never forget that moment. Emotion ran through me as I’ve never felt it before. Tears coursed down my face and my body shook. I was not alone. Jake and our boys were there and they listened as I expressed my heartache. The boys’ faces expressed concerned as they’d never seen me this way. I embody control – a rare display of the lack thereof must have been frightening.
Thankfully I understood why I felt the betrayal so acutely and was able to share that with them. My life had been filled with hiding emotions behind food. Not just anger, frustration, and hurt, but also rejoicing, celebration, and happiness. All responses tempered with the satiety of a meal. It was a default programmed years ago and became my coping mechanism and the foundation of my control.
When that was removed I was left in a bit of a tail spin. I had to learn how to feel my emotions. I worked to process feelings that had been buried deep. I probably could have used a therapist, instead Jake listened to me for hours and hours and I worked through decades of baggage. He is my rock and deserves sainthood.
Along with emotional healing, was a secondary physical healing. That process was much easier. I was determined to follow the doctor’s instructions explicitly. Step by step healing occurred. First the bandages were removed from my incisions, then the scabs began to heal and eventually I was left with five small purple scars scattered across my abdomen.
Physical recovery came faster than I had expected. My biggest complaint was fatigue. I could have slept through the first two months and been completely content.
Along with emotional and physical healing came the ability to cope with my addictions to food, sugar particularly.
I started this journey as a sugar addict. My diet was filled with sweets and processed carbs. If I wasn’t consuming them, I was thinking about them. My life revolved around what I was going to eat next. I would finish one meal and instantly be thinking of what I could eat next. Jake and I’s date nights were always focused on food. I enjoyed going to the movies, mainly because of the popcorn, soda, and candy I would be able to gorge on. At a restaurant we would order soda, appetizers, full entrees (each), and finish with dessert. Family night with our children always included treats (bags of candy, ice cream, brownies, and donuts).
I am completely serious when I say I had a problem. One that I recognized and was painstakingly embarrassed of. I was out of control and no matter how many times I tried to gain control, I failed, over and over again. I was a failure. This cycle reached a frenzied peak and I turned to surgery as a solution. At the time I wondered if perhaps this added to my failure, that I had to turn to such extreme measures to overcome my weakness, my defect. Why couldn’t I just suck it up and stop eating? Why couldn’t I just be strong enough to do it on my own?
Eight months post surgery I don’t ask myself those questions. Instead I am thankful every day that I had the strength to face my demons and make the difficult choice to seek help. Rather than berate myself for not being good enough – I have found peace with my decision and love for myself in a way I haven’t before. I am enough.
As far as eating goes, I still get hungry. I feel hunger in the way I did pre-surgery. If I haven’t eaten in a while, I’ll be famished. I seriously want to eat anything and everything I can get my hands on. The difference is in how I respond to that hunger. I focus on protein first. When deciding what to eat, I’m always conscious of protein – which is the most important thing for me to eat. Once I eat some protein, my stomach gets full and I’m no longer hungry, nor do I desire to eat any more. It’s as simple as that. I eat and I’m full. Finally there is logic to my consumption of food. I eat to live rather than live to eat.
There have been days that I have forgotten to eat. I get busy with life and I will realize I haven’t eaten. Of course that isn’t ideal, but the fact that it even happens is mind boggling to me. Never before have I ever “forgotten” to eat.
I still have a weakness for sweets. I didn’t for months, but I’ve noticed that it’s still there. I suppose once an addict, always an addict. It just goes to show that this surgery is a tool, not a fix all. I still have to make choices.
One of the reasons I chose this particular surgery (gastric bypass) over other options was the negative side effects that come from consuming too much sugar or fat. This side effect is commonly referred to as “dumping”. Knowing my personal struggles, I wanted all the help I could get. I can eat a bite or two of something sweet, but not much more than that before I feel the negative effects. In my case these are light headedness, nausea, and fatigue. I’ve felt it seriously a couple of times and it is no fun. It takes 30 minutes or so to pass and I’m anxious to avoid it all together.
Thankfully I’m learning healthy habits and I know the recipe for success. I’m aware (hyper aware) of my weaknesses and I’m determined to do what is best for my body. I would never have believed it, but there are foods I used to love that I no longer want to eat at all. Pizza? Makes me sick and I have no appetite for it at all. Bread? No thank you. Cheesecake? No. The list goes on and on.
I terribly cautious about eating. I eat slowly and chew deliberately. Thankfully I’ve never vomited. I hate vomiting and will do anything in my power to avoid it. I’m tuned into my body and know exactly when I’ve had enough to eat and I never eat beyond that.
The biggest side effect I’ve encountered has been hair loss. Since about month 4 I’ve lost an insane amount of hair. Thankfully I had plenty to start with, so I’m not balding… yet. From all I’ve read this is normal and I just have to give it time (as well as make sure I get enough protein and iron). I’m also using a special shampoo, it makes me feel like I’m doing something.
So that’s that. I’m a work in progress. Eight months and 85 pounds later, I feel incredible. I’m happy with my decision and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. It hasn’t been easy – the first 2 months were especially difficult – but it was worth it.