Preparing for a Gastric Bypass is no easy thing. It’s something you may have spent years thinking about and is not a decision to be taken lightly. Recently I’ve had a few people mention they have been thinking of having surgery. I’ve been asked questions and thought it would be good to share some advice. So here goes, I hope you find this useful.
Preparing For A Gastric Bypass
Making the Decision to have surgery.
Often people who struggle with weight for whatever reason will first try to lose weight the natural way. I can’t remember how many times I joined weight watchers, slimming clubs and counted calories. I would lose weight and then regain it once I went back to a normal diet. Being overweight has always been a struggle and even more so once I was put on steroids for life. I considered surgery for many years. I read about it, read success stories, watched television and the more I saw the benefits of Gastric Bypass the more I wanted the procedure.
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Speaking to The Doctor
In the UK I needed to speak to my GP in order to get a referral to the weight loss team. My attempts for the first few years fell on death ears. I was told to exercise more, eat better and given general guidance which really didn’t work well for me. Eventually, I decided to look up the criteria for Gastric Bypass Surgery. I realised I met the criteria for an appointment, went to my GP and told them this was what I wanted. My GP finally listened and I was referred to the bariatric team.
Weight Loss Requirements
In order to have bariatric surgery of any kind in the UK, you need to meet certain criteria. For me I was asked to lose weight on my own for a year. I was sent to a dietician and told after one year I would be reviewed again by the bariatric team. I was expected to lose between five to ten percent of my body weight by counting calories. For one year I struggled but did my best and I stuck to a strict calorie counting diet of 1400 calories a day for a whole year. I lost weight at the start but within 4 months I had stalled. I could not lose anymore no matter how hard I tried. Luckily I had lost 10% of my body weight so I worked hard to maintain and not regain the weight loss.
I was required to attend meetings regularly to learn about Bariatric Surgery and the different options available. This was a requirement and I even had to get a form signed each time I attended to show the dietician. Without attending the meetings I could not progress or be referred at the end of my year. The meetings were useful. I did learn a lot but nothing really could have prepared me for the real thing.
During the year I focussed hard on sticking to a diet. I chose not to stress out over it or worry too much and tried not to think about the operation. I simply got on with life the best I could knowing that in a year and a half or longer my turn for Gastric bypass would come. I was given information and told to start preparing myself. Learn not to drink with meals. Practice eating slowly. Learn to chew chew chew my food and only eat food the size of a 20 pence piece. I tried hard but it was difficult to put this into practice. I still struggle today 10 months out.
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Deciding whether to tell people about my Gastric Bypass
Although I knew I would be having a Gastric Bypass in the long term future, I chose not to speak about this to people until I had a date and it my procedure was confirmed. Of course my husband knew but there is always a chance with chronic health conditions that an operation may be unsafe and you may not meet the final criteria for the gastric bypass operation. When I finally announced I was having surgery I had a mixed response. I had some support but others were quite negative. In hindsight I may not have shared with people as much as I did. It’s something to consider as you prepare.
The Pre-Op tests
Before I was given a date for my Gastric Bypass I had to meet with the Surgeon, have a psychological assessment, many blood tests, a heart trace and speak to the anaesthetist. It was not until everyone was satisfied that I was able to get a date for my operation and begin to prepare for my Liver Shrinking Diet in preparation for my procedure. It took over 18 months to get to this stage and I was given an operation date the week after my pre-op testing.
Be prepared for cancellations
Three times I completed the Liver Shrinking diet, went through the mental torture of giving up certain foods and drinks for life and not knowing what it would be like on the losers bench. This was a very stressful time. The Liver reduction diet is not easy. I found it incredibly difficult. I felt hungry and starving and really struggled but I had to shrink my liver so it would not be in the way for my operation. For me, I psyched myself up, travelled a few hours to the hospital and went through the psychological pressure of preparing for my gastric bypass only to arrive and be told the operation is cancelled.
Having my procedure cancelled really messed with my head. It caused me to feel depressed and anxious and upset as one might expect. I also got more and more unwell as I stayed on the Liver shrinking diet in the end for 12 weeks. My folate and zinc levels dropped and I then had to go on a course of vitamins before the procedure as I could not go ahead if my levels were not in normal range.
Eventually on my fourth appointment, my operation took place. It was scary and painful and changed my life. It’s made life difficult but helped me lose weight as I needed to. I’m glad I had my operation but It was not easy and is still a mental and emotional struggle for me each day. I am learning to live with this procedure and the fact after 30 weeks my weight loss stopped and I’ve not lost anything for over 6 months.
I am however glad I had the procedure and will keep trying to lose more weight to get to goal. Preparing for a Gastric bypass is massive. It’s not an easy thing and there is a lot to think about. I hope this post gives you food for thought.
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