I want to make it clear that I am not anti-weight loss surgery. I absolutely am not trying to persuade you one way or another about these procedures. I also don’t want to give you the impression of it being bad for everyone. My experiences are my own and it’s more important for you to gain from my ‘lessons learned’ rather than assume what happened to me will happen to you. I can say, unequivocally, that I do not regret having my surgery. I also don’t think that if you have the surgery you are going to have problems. That’s panic driven commentary, not fact based information. I know plenty of people who have had great success and several who are currently starting their journey after a WLS procedure.
I do want to make it clear to everyone that WLS is also not an easy way out. For those who think that you will lie down on the operating table and wake up with the surgery complete and your problems solved, that is just delusional. WLS is a tool, like some of the guys I’ve dated in the past… or an exercise ball, except way more expensive. It’s what you do with it that counts. Yes, you can and should lose a lot of weight with the surgery, but you can out-eat it, you can eat the wrong things, you can sabotage it and, as a result, your success. I call this ‘Operator Error’.
I witnessed incidents of Operator Error almost from Day 1. The hospital where I had my surgery would do up to four patients a week, we stayed for a week and were released when we were able to consume clear liquids and ready to move onto the next phase. Now (ten years later, give or take), patients go home within a matter of days in most cases, and some procedures are even outpatient, but this was a time when it was relatively new to being covered by insurance, and people weren’t yet treated in the conveyor belt method I hear about today.
Anyway, there was a patient who ate crackers, or I should say, attempted to eat crackers just a few days after her surgery, and suffered horrendously from it. She wasn’t hungry, it was a deeper lying problem that caused her to seek out crackers from the staff break room and eat them just a few days after having her insides renovated. I know people who admitted that they lied throughout the 3 day psych evaluation we were required to go through. This consisted of testing, profiles and then one on one meetings. One patient told me, ‘I knew what they wanted to hear, and I told it to them, if I said what I was really thinking or feeling they would never have let me have the surgery.’ She was absolutely right, and how scary is it that they didn’t know they were being played. Just an update on that specific patient, she lost 70lbs in the first month, lost another 30 or so pounds over the next few months and then began to regain, ending up not only at her start weight, but higher.
That patient in particular is the one who in large part contributed to my Nazi food behaviors after surgery. She called me at home one day; I was still recovering from a major complication and had barely moved to solid foods yet, to tell me that she ate an entire value meal at some fast food restaurant, this was less than 6 months after her surgery. Just trying to think back, it had to be between 4 and 6 months after her surgery. I feel the need to say that now, all these years later; I am still incapable of doing that. I can’t eat two slices of toast. I can do fries or a small burger (usually with no bun), but not both and certainly not with a soft drink. It blew me away then, and it blows me away now to think about it.
So, are you reading this and thinking, I didn’t have WLS, this doesn’t apply to me. Well, it does. Did your attempt at (Insert Fad Diet Here) not work out? Is it because you celebrate weight loss with an Ice Cream? Are you drinking soft drinks and thinking because its diet it’s ok? Are you regurgitating what someone told you that they heard from someone else? Did you decide you could skip a few weeks of staying true to your plan? Reintroduce foods you were avoiding, like bad carbs, sweets, soft drinks with the reasoning of, just this one time won’t mess anything up. Just one more is ok, I had a few last week and it didn’t mess me up, so I can do it again and on and on and on until you are back to old habits and in old patterns. If you sit and examine, the odds are the reason for weight loss failure is you. I guess, my point (and I do have one) is that Operator Error is not just for WLS patients, it applies to everyone.
I want to share two tricks with you, that are things I learned from being a weight loss patient… things that you might find helpful. Now, let’s be clear, don’t take these two things and use them obsessively, as one might use a scale (ok, I’m talking about myself here… ) These are just things you can use to measure how much you are changing on the inside, as well as viewing how you are changing externally, by way of inches, pounds and dress sizes. The two are very much connected.
Tip #1 - Take a soft drink and a zip lock bag. Open the soft drink, pour it into the bag and seal it shut with as little air as possible. If you are crafty you can do it. Then, leave it alone for awhile, and check on it every 10 minutes or so. What you will see is the bag expanding from the carbonation. This is the reason you should avoid Soft Drinks. The larger your stomach, the more you will want to fill it. Also, factor in the fact that you will lose, on average, 15-20lbs just from the lack of sugar/syrup in the drinks. Then, on top of that, consider that if you replace the soft drinks with water you are likely to drop considerably more, just from that.
Tip #2 - Want to get an idea of how large your stomach actually is? Try the cottage cheese method. Buy a container of cottage cheese; it should say how much is in the container. Eat until you are full. Don’t over eat; just eat until you feel full. Now, measure what is left in the container and subtract that from the original amount. That is roughly the size of your stomach. This works better if you can stomach cottage cheese J.
The point of doing that is to see, the less you eat, the more your stomach shrinks, and then as a result, the less it takes to fill it. It’s a nice circle.
So, here is your challenge. (Crap… she’s assigning homework!)
Try it, I CHALLENGE you to stop drinking carbonation for a few weeks and see if your eating habits shrink just a bit.
I also want you to sit down and think about your previous attempts and figure out where you keep going wrong and then in the future, since you are aware of where those speed bumps are, you can attempt to steer around them.
Let me know!
I’ll have more tips for you as we go, and I appreciate all the ones you have been sharing with me!