Diets? I’ve tried them all: South Beach, low calorie, low fat, low carb, Atkins, the Zone, Ornish, Susan Powter – if it promised weight loss, I’ve probably tried it.
In about 2003 I went on a diet of my own, loosely based on South Beach. I lost 60 pounds in a year and felt great. Then, in mid-2004, my husband left to work in Kuwait as a contractor for a year. Being a single parent of 2 boys made life just too hectic to cook all the time, and we wound up relying on fast food.
I gained all the weight back – and then some – with lightning speed.
Making The Decision To Have Weight Loss Surgery
At my church, several women had already had gastric bypass surgery. They all seemed to be doing great – and they certainly looked great. I started seriously thinking about having it, too.
But one thing I wanted was information on exactly what I was getting into. Would I regret the decision? How would having a gastric bypass change my life?
I’ve always been intensely self-conscious about my weight, so it wasn’t really an option to talk to the other women I knew who’d had weight loss surgery. But when I turned to the internet, it was very hard to find honest, objective information on what life was like after a gastric bypass.
Everyone was either sunshine-and-roses, or incredibly disparaging about the surgery. There just wasn’t a clear picture that I felt could help prepare me for what to expect.
But with the information I could gather, I made the decision that a gastric bypass surgery was right for me. I based this on:
- I desperately wanted to lose weight, and after regaining the 60 pounds I had lost nothing seemed to be working
- Regaining the weight after working so hard to lose it was just horrible. I wanted an option that would be permanent – this is why I chose gastric bypass over the lap band procedure, which has to be adjusted and can be removed
- I believed the myth that weight loss would be easy after surgery and that it would never be regained
- The women I knew who had had the surgery all were doing well and looked great
- Most of all, I wanted to be thin. I wanted to be beautiful. I was tired of feeling like less of a person because I couldn’t control my weight. I saw my fat as a character flaw. And if I’m being totally honest, it was this overwhelming desire to look like a normal person that really made the decision for me
There is a person I’ve always wanted to be. I’m not talking about idolizing someone else – this person is what I imagine the perfect version of me to be. She’s exuberant, full of joy and energy, can make you laugh, and just makes you feel good by being around her. She’s also hot – and let’s be honest, all women want to be beautiful. I’m not going to apologize for that.
But the bottom line is that my decision was not based on a desire for better health. It was a highly emotional, self-esteem issue for me.
My Expectations Meet Gastric Bypass Reality
So I went into surgery with some unrealistic expectations – and got quite a few surprises in the days and months following. Sure, I’d been to the pre-op class to hear about the possible complications. I took the nutrition class to learn how I was supposed to eat afterward.
But nobody really explained (though to be fair they did try) how much this surgery would mess with my mind. They didn’t tell me that instead of no longer thinking about food, I’d spend my entire day counting fluid ounces and protein grams and keeping track of which vitamins I’d taken.
Instead of denying myself, I would feel like I was constantly shoving something in my mouth. And don’t let that excite you – I’m not talking about shoving in good things, but water and more water, and chewable supplements that don’t always taste good, and protein powders and shakes.
What’s more, the weight did not just magically melt away with no effort. That is perhaps the single biggest myth out there – that having a gastric bypass is the easy way out. It’s the exact opposite. You still have to exercise, you still have to be very careful about what you eat.
The biggest difference for me is that after having a gastric bypass, the exercise and the being careful actually get results, whereas before I could diet like crazy and be lucky to lose 10 pounds.
Gastric Bypass Changed More Than Just My Body
But relationships change. The biggest one being my relationship with myself and my own body. Who is this person that’s emerging from behind the layers of fat? In some ways I feel like I’ve found myself - I’m much more comfortable interacting with others, especially people I don’t know well. I can meet a stranger without giving a thought to how I look.
I’m a lot more confident, and in many ways I’m happier. At least with my clothes on. Because underneath, the weight loss has taken a toll on my skin. That makes me very self conscious, and is not an ego boost come bath time every night. And my poor husband has paid a price there.
People do treat me differently. Mostly this has been good. But you know all those problems you have that you think will go away when the fat is all gone? They don’t go away.
If you have a problem communicating with your spouse – guess what? You still will when the weight is gone. If you’re unhappy with who you are when you wear a size 24, you’re still gonna be unhappy in a size 12.
And you’ll be surprised how many issues you have that you really think are because of being overweight, but actually stem from something else. I discovered I’m not any better at accepting praise or complements now that I’m thinner. I didn’t feel undeserving just because I was fat – there’s actually something deeper there.
The bottom line with gastric bypass surgery is that the weight does come off. But then there are a whole host of ramifications to that weight loss. Physical, psychological, and relational. I’ve seen stories of people who felt like gastric bypass saved their lives, and others who feel that it ruined their health.
My gastric bypass story is still being written. As I write this, I’m only 11 months out from surgery. I’ve not yet met my goal. But I feel like I’m far enough out to start looking at the decision objectively. There are positives and negatives. Hopefully, by sharing them with you it will help your journey, whether you’ve already had surgery or are still trying to make the decision.
I promise brutal honesty and absolutely never to sugarcoat anything. I hope it helps you.