At some point in the first month after gastric bypass surgery, nearly everyone has at least one moment of “oh, my God what have I DONE?”
Of course, at this point it’s too late. The deed is done and you just have to live with the consequences.
I’ve heard many people say, “If I had known it would be like this I would have thought longer and harder about having this surgery.”
Unfortunately, you just don’t hear a lot about this aspect of the gastric bypass experience. Sure, they try to warn you with statistics about complications and tell you it’s not easy. They try and point out that it’s a huge life change, yada yada yada.
But most of us really only look at the end result: I will be thin if I have this operation. And we’re so desperate for that outcome that it’s really hard to get this side of the story to sink in.
Well, it’s GOT to sink in. Not just to be sure you’re making an informed decision, but so you’ll be prepared and the hard parts won’t hit you in the teeth like a sledgehammer.
Listen to me: THERE WILL BE VERY DIFFICULT DAYS AHEAD. Do you understand? There will be times you will look to the sky and beg God to go back in time and tell you not to do this to yourself.
And no, you will NOT be the exception.
Nobody – absolutely NOBODY – breezes through this experience with nary a regret or tear shed. Aspects of this surgery and the ensuing life change are extremely unpleasant.
The question you have to answer for yourself is whether or not the unpleasantness is worth the end result. Is what you will go through and how you will end up better or worse than doing nothing and possibly always being overweight?
Nobody can answer that for you. But you need all the facts if you’re going to answer it for yourself.
With that in mind, here are some of the experiences I had, and have heard about from friends and acquaintances following gastric bypass surgery:
I Can’t Stop Crying
The first days and weeks after surgery were the worst emotional roller coaster I think I’ve ever been on.
Suddenly, I was an outsider in my own home. In a family that has always made sitting around the dinner table together a priority, I no longer fit in. I was excluded from something that had always been a bonding moment.
I felt so alone and desolate. I can’t describe how much it hurt.
A friend of mine had extended family in to help with recovery. As a way of saying thank you, her husband cooked them a big, nice dinner the day before they were leaving. His intentions were nothing but good, to show appreciation for the help they had gotten. My friend saw the food and the togetherness and spent the next hour having an emotional meltdown.
The upheaval after this surgery is just as big as bringing your first baby home from the hospital. Parents will understand what I mean. It is an intense, trial-by-fire kind of thing and absolutely nothing in your life is ever the same again.
Mood swings are incredible. One moment you’re full of hope, the next you’re in the depths of despair. Many people say they spend hours just crying. Your body hurts, you can’t stand up straight, and one of your principal comforts in life has just been taken away from you.
It’s little wonder that so many experience such deep bouts of depression at this time.
My Former Best Friend Has Become My Enemy
Food. We’ve relied on it for so long. Turned to it for comfort, used it to bond or even just for something to do when we were bored. Suddenly, it’s just not there.
But you still have to watch everyone around you eat. And you still have to endure all those late-night commercials. I had never noticed how many restaurants advertise after 9:00 or 10:00 at night until after my surgery. And never in my life have I wanted a bucket of Extra Crispy and some mashed potatoes so bad!!
Yet all you can have for the first couple of weeks or more are liquids. After that, as you get bumped up to soft foods the fun really begins.
I’ll never forget my first egg. I was sooo excited to eat it. Then I was sooo sick and threw it up. Reintroducing every single food back into your diet is a roll of the dice. Will it hurt miserably going down? Will it spark dumping syndrome and make me wish I was dead?
Let me describe dumping syndrome to you: You eat. You chew the crap out of it, eat it slowly and all that. Then around the time you finish, it starts: You break out in a sweat. You’re overwhelmingly nauseas and your pulse begins to pound. Some people have pain, others feel dizzy. Everyone is absolutely miserable.
It can make you afraid to eat anything, and that only adds to your emotional distress.
But even worse than dumping is the pain that can come from eating something your pouch just doesn’t like. It can feel like you’re literally ripping your stomach in half – and that’s in addition to the pain you still have from surgery.
You have to quickly come to terms with the fact that you are no longer in charge of your eating decisions. That control has been supplanted by an alien life form also known as your pouch. And you have just become it’s slave.
The alien known as your pouch is under no obligation whatsoever to accommodate your mental cravings or desires. Neither is it at all bound by rules of consistency. It may love something today, and throw a hissy fit when you eat the same thing tomorrow. There sometimes is no detectable rhyme or reason behind it’s actions, yet you must appease it’s whims and desires with every tidbit that passes your lips. If you don’t, rest assured you WILL be sorry.
I Can’t Eat, Yet I’m Constantly Shoving Something In My Mouth
I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but it bears repeating. You will be amazed at how much thought and effort you are now putting into consuming 64oz of water, 60+ grams of protein, plus daily calcium, multivitamin and iron supplements.
You are constantly keeping track of these things, counting ounces and grams and time to take supplements. It can quickly consume your entire day.
And, horror of horrors, many people find themselves suddenly unable to tolerate these things they need so desperately to stay healthy.
What do you do when drinking water hurts your pouch? Of if you cannot tolerate the taste of any protein supplement? Of if the calcium tablets you have to chew are so chalky they make you gag?
You have to force yourself. You have to keep trying until you find a way to make it work. Maybe there’s yet another protein supplement out there you haven’t tried. Maybe adding a squirt of lemon or some Crystal Light to your water will help.
If you don’t force yourself, you get sick as a dog stinking quick. You’ll have no energy, you’ll be dizzy and crabby (well, crabbier) and what’s worse, it will contribute to your inevitable first plateau.
WHAT?!? All This Trauma And I’m STILL Not Losing Weight?
About one month out is usually when we get the biggest, most painful kick in the teeth gastric bypass will ever throw at us:
Suddenly, the scale just stops moving. Worse, on occasion it can even move a few pounds back UP!
The screams of utter panic and frustration are usually heard throughout your entire neighborhood. Children and small animals run for cover. HOW can this BE? Did my surgeon trick me? Did they just cut me open and sew me back together for laughs?
Am I going to be the only human being in the history of medicine that has had this surgery and not lost any weight?
And don’t forget the fact that everyone you know, who also knows you had surgery, will be pressing you for constant updates on your progress. Just imagine how much worse it will feel when you’re devastated by the fact that you’ve been stuck for a week or more, and have to repeat that fact at least 3 times a day to people you aren’t really that close to to begin with.
Yeah. It sucks.
This plateau is only the first of many you will experience. But being the first, it’s also the hardest.
“Doggone it,” you may say, “I went through hell in order to lose weight. I can handle hell if only I also have the reward of seeing this fat melt away. But if the fat isn’t melting then I’m going through hell for NOTHING!!”
Again, at this point, children and small animals should seek some form of cover for their own safety.
It can last anywhere from a week to a month or more. Yes, it will eventually end and you’ll start losing again. But the frustration and pain you endure in the meantime is mind blowing.
You can make this plateau a little easier to bear in a couple of different ways: First, don’t weigh every day. (Nobody I know is able to pull that one off, but hey, it would probably help if you could. Maybe you can. I still can’t.) Second, measure yourself. Because even when you’re not losing pounds you can be losing inches. And knowing that can help. Somewhat.
How Did I Ever Become Friends With So Many Obnoxious People?
Get ready. For some reason, weight loss surgery is an intensely emotional topic for a whole lot of people. Even ones who’ve never had weight problems (who I think should just keep quiet, but of course they think just the opposite.)
In addition to the constant, “SO, how much weight have you lost?” refrain, you’ll hear things like:
- “I could NEVER live like that! How could you do that to your body?”
- “I’m losing weight the hard way. You took the easy way out.” (This one is particularly galling after going through everything on this page. Even harder is mustering up the smile and the hopefully-sincere congratulations you are then obligated to offer.)
- “So-and-so had that. She did great for a while, but now she’s gained it all back and then some. In fact, such-and-such had it, too. She lost a slew of weight, left her husband and shacked up with Whats-his-face. Now she’s piling the weight back on, too. Oh, and then there’s Whatsername, you know, her grandma’s sister-in-law’s cousin is in my Sunday school class. She up and died 6 weeks after her surgery. But I’m sure you’ll do fine.”
- “How much can you eat? OMG that’s so small!”
- “Why can’t you just not eat and save yourself all this trouble?”
- “Well, you did this to yourself, you’ll just have to live with it.”
- “Oh, we’re going out to eat. Maybe next time we’ll think of something you can do, too.”
You’ll also hear lots of support and encouragement from the truly wonderful people in your life. Cling to it. It will be your salvation.
Now You Know – Did It Sink In?
Everyone is different. Some have an easier time than others. But the above is a fairly accurate representation of the first month or two for most of us.
If you’ve already had surgery, I hope you found the trip down memory lane amusing at least. I’d love for you to add your comments below.
But if you’re still on the other side of the knife, I hope this has opened your eyes. Gastric bypass surgery is NOT the easy way out. It’s NOT all sunshine and roses. It’s an incredibly huge life change, and it can be downright traumatic.
This trauma doesn’t last forever. And lots of good things come in the days and months ahead. But you have to get through the tough part first.
Whether the trauma is worth it is the decision you have to make.