After I had weight loss surgery in 2011, I joined online support groups and forums. Hey! I was a patient now too and knew that even with everything I’d learned in the proceeding 10 years working in the field, it couldn’t completely prepare me for life after weight loss surgery. I wanted to be in touch with other patients.
I loved the online groups. I found myself raising my hand to answer questions and offer suggestions. As a weight loss surgery educator, there were plenty of questions I had answers to. And as a patient I was eager to learn and share my new experiences. Over time, fellow patients contacted me privately wanting to talk a little more.
Conversations with weight loss surgery friends.
I share these conversations (names and identifying circumstances changed) because you may see yourself, your situation, or a similarity that can give you insight into your challenge and an action step that can help you reach your WHY…so you can live your best life.
This conversation is with Terry. At the time he was three years out from sleeve surgery. We’d been talking for a couple months at this point.
Me: “So did it get better or more difficult during the holidays?”
Terry: “Well it got worse before it got better. I’d been putting off my annual physical for at least 3 months. But I knew I had to go. I just didn’t want to know how much I weighed. I thought I was up 15 pounds, but I was up 25 pounds! I just didn’t want to believe it. My doctor didn’t really say much because I’m still better off than I was before surgery, at least that’s what I was thinking when he left the room. Then his nurse came in with all kinds of brochures on healthy eating and a list of nutrition classes. I was pissed off. I feel kind of bad that I was a jerk because it wasn’t her I was upset with, it was me.”
Me: “So what did you decide to do?”
Terry: “The day after my appointment I went grocery shopping. I took my regular route around the store and the facts hit me in the face. The choices I’d been making have been a factor in how I gained 25 pounds.”
Me: “What do you mean?”
Terry: “Alright, well let’s start with the full calorie or full fat things I was buying when there were healthier versions I used to buy the first two years.
Whole milk instead of non-fat.
Mayonnaise instead of mustard.
Ground beef instead of ground turkey.
Rotisserie chicken with the skin instead of plain chicken breasts.
Cooking my eggs in butter instead of poaching them.
Rice instead of vegetables.
Full fat yogurt instead of light.
And the things I had done without for more than two years…tortilla chips and salsa, popcorn, coffee creamer, pudding cups. Seriously, I could go on.”
Me: “I think right after surgery we’re completely on board with everything and we’re afraid to some extent too. Maybe more so with gastric bypass because of sugar, but I think we’re all very careful for a while. And then we start testing the waters to see what we can eat and how much, without getting sick. Then sometimes we get too comfortable and there begins the slippery slope.”
Terry: “Slippery slope or landslide? I had some time off during the holidays and I just sat and thought about it. Why was I doing this to myself after everything I went through? I hated the way I was living before surgery. I was sick, tired and I could barely move without gasping for breath. So I had the surgery. I lost 140 pounds. I looked better and felt better than I had in 20 years. So why the hell would I go back? Why didn’t I get to goal weight? Why did I let myself regain weight? And I figured some of it out.”
Me: “Wow! Okay, what did you figure out?”
Terry: “Even 15 pounds away from goal weight I was wearing a size 34 pants. A 34! I was looking better than any other guy in my department, definitely in better shape than both of my brothers, and moving around the court just as well as the guys on my team. When my weight started going up and I had to wear a 36, I was still okay because…here’s the bad part.”
Me: “Okay, go ahead.”
Terry: “I felt superior to the men I was around, some of the women too, so I could afford to gain weight and still feel good about how I looked. I lived a long time hating the fact that I was the fat guy. But then I finally got to be the healthy guy, in most cases the skinny guy. I didn’t need to go any further. My test results were good, I was off all medication, I looked great in my size 34s, I was getting the looks from the ladies, and everybody was telling me how great I looked. When the weight came on things didn’t really change. So I just kept pushing the limits. Now 25 pounds up, it had to stop.”
Me: “I get that Terry, I do.”
Terry: “Like I said, I figured this out during the holidays and things were busy. What I didn’t do during the holidays was go overboard. I didn’t do second helpings, and if there were healthier things on the table I went for those.”
Me: “That’s a good start.”
Terry: “It was. Then I sat down and wrote some resolutions, not something I usually do, but this all happened at the right time I guess. I had to get back to the basics.”
Me: “What are the basics for you?”
Terry: “First thing is a protein shake every morning, and another one around 3 pm. Now I’m not just playing basketball on the weekends for exercise. I started jogging a couple nights a week, I’m using weights and doing core work again. I checked out the examples you sent me and I’m trying to follow what that guy Jeff does.”
Me: “Awesome, Terry!”
Terry: “You know, two years ago I was the weight loss surgery poster boy doing everything right, and then the landslide came. But you’re right, it starts as a slippery slope.”
Me: “Terry, you said you figured out why you weren’t doing anything about the regained weight, you said it had to stop. But why did you decide it had to stop?”
Terry: “Because if I let it go it would be another 10-15 pounds next year, and then another 10-15 the year after that. In 3 years I’d be up 50 pounds from my lowest weight after surgery and then I’m the fat guy again. I’d be back in Dr. Smith’s office getting my 5 prescriptions and waiting in line at CVS. I like my life now. I like playing basketball on Sundays. I like being able to take the stairs at work. I like going out and meeting new people. I want to meet somebody, I do. I can’t go back. I’ve wasted too much time already.”
What about you?
Do you see a little of yourself in Terry?
Are you making choices right now that border a slippery slope?
Any chance your choices are leading to a landslide?
Are there items showing up in your grocery basket that weren’t there the first year after surgery?Have you done your labs in the past year?
Have you visited your surgeon or physician for your annual bariatric surgery check-up?
Have you decided exercise just isn’t your thing?
Have you decided that the size 12 isn’t that much bigger than a 10 so it’s okay?
Have you said to yourself, “It’s a lot better than it used to be.”?
Here’s the thing.
If you’ve kept reading this far my hunch is you’re not okay with the plateau or the regain.
“But Terry found the WILLPOWER, the SELF-CONTROL, the DETERMINATION!”
Yes, that’s true. But Terry also has his WHY, his goal. He knows what living his best life feels like and he doesn’t want to give that up. In fact, he wants even more for his life. He wants to meet someone.
Terry has his WHY.
What’s your WHY sweetheart?
Love, light and grace to you.