Bariatric Surgery Lessons and Tips
Well today I wanted to write about my Weight loss Journey to date as a gastric bypass patient. I feel I have learnt so much and I have so much more to learn. I’m sharing this for those interested in my Gastric Bypass Journey and hope this is somewhat helpful and useful.
Preparing for Gastric Bypass
Before my operation I can honestly say I really wanted to lose weight. I tried over and over but really struggled especially on steroid medication and stuck in bed unwell. I spoke about it a lot to my husband and I honestly felt that bariatric surgery was the only way I would be able to get past the challenge I had of being morbidly obese. Eventually I was referred to a specialist by my doctor.
On several occasions I had been interested in the surgery as an option and asked the doctor and been told to sign up to a gym, go swimming, get more active, try to lose weight, join a slimming club. I was always told to make a bigger effort and whenever I mentioned bariatric surgery the issue was side stepped. What changed was I researched the criteria for Bariatric surgery on the NHS and realised I did meet this. I went to the doctor and spoke firmly saying I want to be referred. The doctor once more tried to say but you will have to do a weight loss program etc and travel far. I said well, I’ll do what I’m asked but I have a right to be assessed so please make the referral.
If you want to be assessed for bariatric surgery your doctor will need to check you meet criteria and refer you. Do your research, look up the criteria, what your BMI needs to be for an appointment with the bariatric team and push for the appointment.
Be aware, once you are seen by a specialist, (if you meet basic criteria) they will refer you to a dietician for at least a year and you will need to lose a lot of weight on your own before being referred back to the bariatric team.
Losing Weight on your own
Generally a patient who meets criteria for bariatric surgery will be required on the NHS to lose at least 10% of their own body weight before being referred for the procedure. Unless you are going private losing weight will be tough and it’s something you have to work very hard at. I was determined and reached my 10% within 8 months and then struggled to lose any more after that.
I chose not to tell people I was preparing for a gastric bypass until I had reached my goal, had all assessments done and was ready to go. The good news is, the weight criteria is based on your heaviest when you are first referred to the dietician. Therefore if you lose more than 10% of your body weight but still have a long way to go, you won’t be told your now healthy and can’t go ahead.
I was told to try and lose what I could before and if I got down to the healthy weight range I could re-evaluate my options. I lost 10% but still had a long way to go. My weight at the time of surgery was 19 stone 5 pounds.
Lose as much weight as you can while you do your one-year weight loss program and attend the bariatric meetings to learn about the operation during that time.
Seeing the Bariatric Surgeon
Although I followed a weight loss plan for a year, it took longer before I saw the bariatric surgeon for assessment and approval. This was due to waiting times. I completed my one year in October 2015 but did not see the surgeon until December 2015. It was an extra 3 months but there is a waiting list and others were before me on the list.
At my assessment I did not know what to expect. I met in a room with about 10 other patients. We all took in turns for weight and height measurements, MRSA swabs, psychological assessments, dietician assessments, blood tests and heart monitoring. I then spoke with anaesthetist and the bariatric surgeon about which surgery was best for me. I did not know what to expect but the session took a good 4 hours.
Expect to spend the best part of the day being assessed for bariatric surgery. Do your research and learn about the different options before seeing the surgeon. I did and I was able to say what I wanted whereas some people were really unsure.
Be prepared for the surgeon to suggest a different procedure to what your planning and keep an open mind.
Setting an Operation Date
You could get an operation date on the day your assessed or you could have to wait several weeks. Either way, you will need to prepare to go on a Liver Reduction Diet usually for 2 weeks before the operation. Sometimes operations are cancelled at the last minute. Mine was cancelled 3 times. I was fourth time lucky.
Be prepared to do the Liver Shrinking diet for some time and don’t start it until you have to. Enjoy a final meal before you start the diet. I had steak and I’m glad I did as I’ve never been able to have it since.
My operation went well however I had a very painful experience in comparison to some. I have read different accounts and some have little pain whereas others are in the worst pain of their lives. I wrote about the painful truth about gastric bypass surgery and my experience. It was very hard for me. For several weeks I suffered and regretted the surgery but once the surgery pain had subsided it became physically easier pain wise.
It will get easier and will be worth it eventually but gastric bypass is never an easy option.
Eating After Surgery
Eating after surgery is mentally and physically tough. I have written a series of posts on my own experiences but you start with a liquid diet and move onto puree foods and then soft foods and eventually solids again. I struggled through these phases and I think most people do. It’s hard to get used to retraining the mind, changing eating habits, not drinking and eating at the same time, chewing many times and taking breaks between mouthfuls.
I found it so tough until 16 weeks when things got a little easier. I’m still on this journey and learning what works for me and does not and it is tough. I found by 20 weeks I could eat most foods again and my focus now is to get my head around measuring protein and counting calories. I realised I had not been eating as much as I needed to and I think thats why my weight stalled over the least few weeks.
Follow the diet plan your given the best you can. When you start solids, measure out your proteins and count calories. Check labels for sugar and fat content. I did this but got slack and when I thought I was eating right it turned out not quite enough. This is my focus for the coming month.
Life is forever changed
After Bariatric Surgery your relationship with food is changed. You cannot eat a large meal in one sitting as a normal person. My meals are the size of a side plate now. I can go out for a meal and eat half a kids meal. I can eat a whole can of soup or 4 pieces of sushi. I can’t eat a whole meal so it’s baby portions for me. This can be frustrating and takes months to get used to but it does get easier. I’m slowly getting used to this. It’s a process and takes time but I feel it is worth it.
Don’t eat too much in one sitting or you will be sick, have stabbing pains and or stretch your pouch. You will get used to the new way of eating and I recommend exploring fun options and healthy treat size snacks such as Chicken Salad Cucumber bites, broccoli cheese bites or protein balls. There are plenty of healthy bean, vegetable and chicken soups to help with protein and so many options you just need to be willing to put in the time and find what works for you. It’s a life changing process but it’s worth it in the end.
Bariatric surgery is not for everyone and this is simply my own experience and some of the things I have learnt. The journey is not easy but there is support out there online, in forums and Facebook groups and via the hospital. Find support and people you can talk to. However some will have different experiences and opinions and others may have different plans. Stick to the plan from your doctor and if you have concerns speak to your dietician. If you can exercise once your recovered from surgery then do- it will help your weight loss.
I have not been able to do much exercise due to my health but it’s a great thing to do alongside the healthy eating plan and other life changes. Start off small and work your way into something manageable. If you have a blip and eat something you maybe should not have, just pick yourself up and keep going. Don’t give up and enjoy your bariatric journey. You can do it.
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