Lately, I’ve been thinking about judgments & why people feel compelled to judge others. People post a lot here about feeling judged by friends and family members for deciding to have surgery, or feeling judged by skinny people for being fat in the first place. Personally, I have been fortunate that not one single negative word has been said to me with regards to having surgery. My family and friends have all been very supportive. Intellectually, I know I am (or have been) judged negatively by other people for my weight, but I honestly don’t usually notice those judgments. If I do happen to notice or feel judged by somebody, I don’t generally internalize the judgment and allow it to continue to affect me.
But it seems to me that there is also a fair amount of judgment happening among members of the WLS community. Sometimes it’s subtle and sometimes it quite overt, but it’s all judgmental bulls**t that says more about the person making the judgment than it does about the person being judged. Here are just a few judgments I have observed being made here and elsewhere among members of the WLS community. Some of these judgments have been directed at me, some I’ve observed in others, and one or two I am guilty of making.
Everyone who needs/wants WLS has a food addiction or depression or very low self-esteem. If you say you don’t, then you are either lying or in denial.
People who go to Mexico for surgery are less prepared mentally and emotionally than those who have surgery in the US.
My surgeon does things the “right” way. If your surgeon tells you something different, he/she is wrong and I am justified in telling you to ignore your surgeon’s instructions.
People who slip up on the preop diet are not ready for surgery and will likely fail.
People who do not follow instructions to the letter in the first couple of months post-op are not committed to the process and will likely fail.
People who do not commit wholeheartedly to an exercise plan postop are not committed to the process and will likely fail.
People who drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or smoke weed postop are not committed to the process and will likely fail.
People who come here posting questions without first searching for the answer are dumb or lazy.
People who credit their faith with helping them get through this process are annoying and should not talk about their faith in relation to WLS.
People who are atheist or agnostic are missing the most important part of life and should be pitied.
People who have plastics after WLS are vain.
People who struggle to put their own needs ahead of others aren't trying hard enough or valuing themselves enough.
I’m sure other folks can think of more, and there is also a whole raft of judgments that we frequently make against ourselves. The point is that none of these judgments are true and none of these judgments are supportive or helpful in any way. We all have our own path to travel, and I believe we each generally do the best we can at any given time. At various times, my “best” will be better than some and not nearly as good as others, and that’s true for everybody. I don’t know if judging others is a way to feel better about ourselves, or just a bad habit we fall into, but it certainly does seem to come naturally to us. In my opinion, reaching out for support is a healthy, intelligent, and wise thing to do. Let’s try to respect the courage it takes to be here, and check our judgments at the door.
This week I had my 6 week postop appointment. I am down about 43 lbs total, including my 2 week preop diet. After hitting 40 lbs down at 4 weeks, I went up & down the same pound for about a week. After 3 or 4 days, I stopped weighing myself every day & just waited about 5 days or so before weighing again. When I did, I was down 2 pounds & another one came off before my follow up appointment. I think my body was adjusting to having more solid food. At week 5, I was finally able to start cooking again & enjoying the kinds of food I love. I'm still focusing on softer foods, but being able to cook good food & start sharing dinner with my husband again has really boosted my outlook. In addition, I can tell my clothes are getting too big & I'm starting to pull out clothes I haven't worn in years. I found a really cute knit pencil skirt online at Target & I bought both a 3X and a 2X (Target stuff runs small on me). The 3X fits great now & the 2X will fit before too long. It's perfect for somebody with a bountiful booty & the hubs loves it.
A new cookbook I am exploring right now is called Well Fed by Melissa Joulwan. It's a paleo cookbook, and Melissa also has a great blog called The Clothes Make The Girl. The paleo style of eating seems to fit in really well with our postop guidelines, so I decided to check it out. So far, I have really enjoyed everything I have tried from the book. She includes a sections on staples of a paleo pantry & ways to cook ahead the simple parts of a meal (meat, veggies, etc) that you then can use over a whole week with many variations.
I found Well Fed on Amazon, along with several other paleo cookbooks I'm thinking of trying now.
Over the last couple of weeks, I have had several social things to go to, plus a couple of times where I have had to be away from home for a whole day or overnight without much access to decent food. I've had to plan ahead for eating properly, and I've also had to get over my nervousness about social or party eating. I've been surprised at the things I've been tempted by & the things I have NOT been tempted by. One party was hosted by a friend who is a very good baker, and his parties always include some yummy cakes. I expected to be pretty tempted to have a bite of cake, but I wasn't. It was so weird, but I was happy with cheese & some olives & hardly looked twice at the cakes. However, last night we were at another friend's house they put out some Triscuits. OMG, I absolutely HAD to have a damn Triscuit. I was actually distracted from the conversation because I kept glancing at the Triscuits. Seriously, I'm obsessing over a Triscuit?? WTH??? I ended up eating 4 over the whole evening & they were yummy. I also had a little wine, but I didn't even finish one glass.
I have noticed that I am starting to feel hunger again. A couple of times, I have been very hungry & my first 2 or 3 bites have been either too big and/or taken in too fast. Each time, I have thrown up right away. I need to do better about keeping it slow & small no matter how hungry I am. I am also struggling to take in 64 oz of water a day. I carry my bottle around, but forget to drink from it. The most I usually drink is 36 to 48 oz, and I know I need to do better than that.
The other thing I'm noticing is that I'm "hungry" to get out and do more stuff now. My knees are feeling much better, and I am so much more enthusiastic about going shopping or to the grocery store or to a party without worrying about pain from standing or feeling like I am stuck in a chair while everyone else is mingling. Call it hunger for life, but that's the other hunger that's coming back & I am so grateful to feel it. Life is for living, and although I was never a person who withdrew from life, I certainly felt restricted in what I was physically able to do. My next NSV outing will be to go to our big farmer's market on a Saturday morning. Maybe next week? We'll see!
I finally got moved off liquids and on to purees and soft foods after week 4. I have continued to have my espresso protein shake almost every morning, because it satisfies my coffee craving. I use 1 cup of skim milk, 1/2 cup of plain Greek yogurt, 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder (I use Syntrax Nectar), and about 1 tbsp of Cafe Bustelo instant espresso crystals dissolved in a little warm water. Stick everything in the blender bottle, shake & go. 250 cals, 45g protein, 18g carbs.
I have moved very gently into more solid foods like fine chicken salad and scrambled eggs. So many folks seem to have trouble with eggs at first, and I am so thankful that I haven't had any issues. I can definitely feel the restriction more with solid foods than with liquids. Everybody told me to expect that, but I was still worried that somehow I would be 'different' and be able to take in more than I was comfortable with.
On my 4th week anniversary on the 19th, I was down 40 lbs, including the 18 lost on the pre-op diet. That was 5 days ago & the scale hasn't really moved since then. It's been going up & down the same half pound or so, but I'm trying not to let that bother me. All my clothes are stretchy, so I was afraid I wouldn't be able to tell anything by the way my clothes fit, but again that proved to be wrong. I can wear dresses & tops that have been too snug for several years. I can pull off my denim capris without unzipping or unbuttoning them first. (I'm not sure when that might come in handy, but I can do it.) I have a party to go to next week & I pulled out a cute dress I haven't worn in 5 years. Not only does it fit perfectly, but it looks REALLY great. Another bonus...maybe because I'm not very far out, my "girls" are still holding their own. My waist & belly look and feel smaller, but up top is still an attractive feature. Best of all, though, I'm walking and moving much easier. I have been trying to walk at the mall every couple of days & I'm doing some light weights at home. About every 3rd time I exercise, I notice that I can either do just a little more, or the same amount is easier. I have started parking farther away from entrances & I think I may even stick my handicapped hang tag in the glove box.
I'm still on soft foods for another week or so, but I'm plenty satisfied with what I'm able to eat now. I haven't tried fish yet (other than canned tuna or sardines), but I plan to try some salmon this week. My next big milestone is to eat out in a restaurant, and I think fish will be a good thing to start with. Mostly I'm just happy to be feeling good & strong & on my way to a better me!
My second week postop was SO much better than the first week. The addition of kefir (liquid yogurt) in my diet really helped to bring my diarrhea under control & everything in the whole world looked much better after that!
My surgeon had me on 2 full weeks of clear liquids plus skim milk postop. It was definitely tough to go that long on just clear liquids, even with skim milk & the addition of kefir one week in. I was aware that many other docs do not require 2 weeks on clears, but I just figured this was my karmic payback for having a generous pre-op diet that was not just a bunch of shakes. Even though I had heard this might happen, I was still surprised to find myself never experiencing hunger...either physical or head hunger. A couple of times I was in a restaurant or somewhere else around yummy food, but I was barely tempted. The food looked good, smelled great...and still, I only had a tiny ripple of want, and then I forgot about it.
Here's what else surprised me, though...the number of pre-op and post-op sleeve peeps who encouraged me to cheat on, or disregard, my surgeon's instructions! Granted, nobody was encouraging me to eat a cookie or something like that, but several folks encouraged me to have some yogurt, or a protein shake, or pudding. Even though I knew it it probably wouldn't hurt me to give in, I chose to stick to the plan as outlined by my surgeon.
Maybe it's a small thing, but it seems to me that developing our self-discipline skills is a big part of this journey. I assume that my surgeon has chosen his post-op guidelines because he believes them to be the best way to ensure a successful start. Part of the information we learn on this & other WLS sites is just how much variation there is among surgeons, and their pre- and post-op plans. We know what other folks are being told by their doctors, and sometimes it might be easy to think, "Well, that person's doctor said it wasn't a problem, so why does my surgeon care? It won't really matter if I just....." I know that suggesting that someone have a yogurt is not the end of the world, but rationalization and justification are twin pathways on the slipperiest of slopes. I don't want to get started down that road. I will be the first to admit that my self-discipline skills can certainly use some work, but I am making the best effort I possible can to be successful on this journey.
I have felt very lucky to have had a couple of months preop to be on this site & learn from others. I appreciate the knowledge, advice, and the sharing of experiences I have found here, and I plan to pay it forward by posting regularly on my post op progress. So far, my experience has been pretty good, although in some ways it’s different than what I imagined.
I was sleeved on Wednesday, June 19 at Northside Hospital in Atlanta, GA. When I woke up from surgery, I felt queasy, but I didn’t get sick. The nursing staff was great, and so was my special bariatric nurse, Debbie. I was able to wear my own gown & robe, and somehow that made me feel better. I was up walking within a couple of hours of being in my room. I needed help walking at first, mainly just to have somebody keep the IV stand out of my way. At first, I was instructed to walk once every four hours, but on the second day they bumped it up to once every 2 hours. By the second day, I could do it by myself, but my husband usually came with me anyway. I used the breathing tube thing (spirometer?) almost every hour. I never hit the goal they set for me, but I came fairly close. I didn’t sleep much on Wednesday night, only dozing on and off. They came in to take vitals every 4 hours & I just couldn’t get comfortable.
That first afternoon, another VST member, journeybegins05032013 came by to meet me, and brought me the sweetest goody bag with samples of different protein powders & flavors, drink mix-ins, iron & calcium chews, a Dr. Seuss book, and a lovely journal. It was such a thoughtful gesture! I have also received wonderful calls, texts, and messages from many of my sleeve peeps, and I am just so thankful for this community.
WARNING – Grossness alert! The next paragraph is about poop.
Based on what I had read from others, I was expecting to not have a BM for several days. However, on Thursday morning I started pooping. It was extremely liquid, just like it had been the night before surgery with the bowel cleanse. It literally felt like I was peeing from the back side. Almost every time I peed, I would let go some more from the back. As a result, my anus hurt a lot. It was very tender & made it even more uncomfortable to lie on my back. The liquid poop has continued at home, but strangely enough I did not fart until this morning, on the 4th day out. I have been burping like crazy, but not farting. I never even used a Gas-X strip since I was pooping so much.
I am on clear liquids for 2 weeks, and then will be on full liquids for 2 more weeks. My doc counts skim milk as a clear, and I’m supposed to take in 32 oz of skim milk & 32 oz of other clears every day. I made SF Jello with milk & it turned out pretty good. I used about a quarter or half cup of boiling water to dissolve & then mixed in about 1 cup & a half of skim milk. I just tried the Unjury Chicken soup with water, but next time will make it with warm milk & see how that works out. I’m not doing a good job tracking my intake, and I really need to get better about that. I am going to start using MyFitnessPal today, since I know it has been so helpful for so many folks. My energy level is still pretty low. I am walking around my house every couple of hours & taking a longer walk with the hubs every evening. I’m trying not to push myself, and just give my body a chance to heal. I haven’t felt hungry at all, either physical hunger or head hunger. Overall, I feel pretty good about my recovery so far and about how my food intake is going. For the next week, I have nothing on my schedule away from the house except for Wednesday. I am planning to keep taking it easy and just continue to heal & build my stamina back up. One day at a time, little by little, I will get to where I want to be.
I'm going to lay out some thoughts I've been having. My intent is not to minimize the experience of anyone else, but simply to offer my own thoughts and beliefs. I know this journey is different for all of us, but I am always saddened when I see a post about how a pre-op person can't wait to "be skinny" or "look hot" or "feel good about myself again". Skinny does not equal happy. Skinny does not equal hot. Skinny does not equal feeling good about ourselves. There are just as many skinny people who are unhappy, unattractive, and down on themselves as fat people. Happiness, feeling attractive, and feeling good about oneself are characteristics generated from within, not without.
A few years ago, at a very low point in my life, happiness seemed to me like a foreign concept. I could not remember the last time I had felt genuinely joyous or happy about anything. Intellectually, I knew that there were many things in my life that were desirable. I had a good job, a comfortable house, a dependable car, some money in the bank, food in the fridge, etc. But despite these things, I was unhappy. Now, I had good reasons to be unhappy, or so I thought. My marriage was failing, I was coming to grips with the fact that I would never be a mother, I wanted desperately to change my life but felt completely stuck, and so on. I remember reading somewhere that happy is a verb...it's an action, not a passive condition. I began to wonder...if I truly felt that there was no spark of happiness or joy in my life, who's fault was that? Who was responsible for my happiness? The answer, of course, is me. I was failing myself. I was not loving myself, or being kind to myself.
I decided that if happy was an action, I was going to try and exercise my happy muscle. I was going to try and find one thing to feel happy about for a few minutes every day. My goal was 3-5 minutes a day of active happiness. I thought that would be super easy. After all, I had been able to identify good things in my life, so how hard could it be to think about them for a couple of minutes every day? Well, it was actually harder than I expected, but I stuck with it. I had to set a timer in the beginning, but I made myself do it every single day. Gradually, I noticed it got easier. Some days all I could come up with was something like the weather, or the fact that my bills were paid on time, but damn it...if that was all I had, then I was damn well going to focus on it & feel happy for 3 freakin' minutes.
I eventually began to notice that I felt happier overall. I'm not sure why, because by this time I was just divorced and trying to figure out dating at 270 lbs & maintaining my new house, etc, but regardless, I felt happier. After meeting the man who has become my 2nd husband, he said that one of the things that attracted him to me was that I always seemed happy. I'm not saying that this is somehow a magic bullet against bad stuff happening, but holding happiness in my mind for a few minutes every day helps me to deal with the inevitable downs of life. It seems to me that consciously taking time to feel happy each day has somehow made a state of happiness more accessible in my brain.
It's been almost 7 years since I began my happiness quest, and I can honestly say I feel happier today than I ever have in my life. To quote Charlotte in the Sex and The City movie, "I feel happy every day. Not all day every day, but every day I feel happy." In choosing to have the sleeve, I absolutely do not expect it to make me happy, because I'm already happy. I feel pretty good about myself today, this minute, at 300+ lbs. Yes, there are things I want to do, but I can't right now. Yes, I have pain every day & difficulty walking, but I still feel good about who I am and what I have to offer in my small corner of the world. I am aware that I am probably judged negatively by some people because of my weight, but I don't even really notice that. Today, I find it so much easier to find things in my life that make me genuinely happy. I am definitely looking forward to weighing less and seeing an improvement in my mobility, but I don't think it will make me somehow better or more acceptable or a more worthy person. I am enough, right now, just as I am. We all are, and we are all so very precious. Today, right now, at this very moment, we are beautiful, and we are valuable, and we are enough. I believe that with all my heart, and I hope you do, too.
Yesterday was my 49th birthday. As I look back over the past almost-decade, I’m amazed at how much has changed, and how far I’ve come. Since I turned 40, I have gone through a number of big life changes, including divorce and remarriage, job/career changes, and achieving a college education. All of those changes have been enriching and empowering for me. It feels like my 40’s have just been one change after another. I have really come into my own over the past few years, in so many ways that I never anticipated. I am excited about becoming a professional counselor, and inspired by the opportunity to have a positive impact in my small corner of the world. I have been so blessed by supportive friends and family, and I am very grateful for the love that lifts me up each day.
Over the past few years, the one major negative change has been my mobility. I can no longer do so many things that I used to do and still want to do. The degree of limitation in my life has become unacceptable to me, and the time to take action is now. So, as I celebrate turning 49, I am already looking ahead to my 50th birthday next year. At that time, I will be 11 months post-op. I have no idea how much weight I will have lost, but I trust that my physical condition will have changed for the better. My plan is to celebrate the beginning of my new decade by doing something physical that would not have been possible at the end of this decade. I don’t know exactly what it will be, but I’ll think of something. It seems very appropriate to celebrate turning 50 by doing something that was not possible for me at 49. I don’t expect to start running or take up mountain climbing; I just want to walk without pain. I want to be able to stand for more than a few minutes, and maybe even to dance again. I want to be able to walk around downtown, or go shopping at the mall. I want to be able to do projects around my house and work in the yard. When we go to the beach, I want to be able to take Tony’s hand and go for a walk in the sand. But until that day comes, I will be thankful to hold his hand as I take this next step, and give myself a gift for next year and beyond.