A year ago yesterday I was sleeved at age 68. I knew I had the energy for one last shot at getting healthy. Like so many of us, controlling my weight was the one thing in my life I’d been unable to manage. Failing at that was a tremendous embarrassment and disappointment to me, not to mention the cause of mounting medical comorbidities that had almost sidelined me from life.
A year ago I’d already been on this forum for 9 months. I could not WAIT to get my WLS show on the road. I’d already lost almost 20 pounds on a 2-month 1,400 calorie diet of my own and, later, my surgeon’s 14-day pre-op diet. I’d been practicing for months the behaviors I’d learned here—eating slower, chewing more, no more soda, a lot less coffee, no NSAIDs (ouch!), walking more (yea, Fitbit!), and my favorite tool of all—planning meals and tracking my food and drink on www.myfitnesspal.com.
Fast-forward to yesterday morning, my first surgiversary. I weighed in at 143 pounds. I feel great, physically and mentally. I look so much younger (I’ll be 70 years old in December). And I truly feel like I’ve been reborn.
The New, Temporary Avatar
I’m on the down-low about having had WLS. Basically, only hubby and two friends know about this. But so many online VSG friends want to know what I look like, so enjoy my new avatar while it’s up. It’s coming down soon. Tough titty.
BTW, I’ll put up a full-body shot of me later. Again, tough titty. But this morning I didn’t have on “the right outfit” to show off my skinny ass. And hubby’s not here right now to take a good photo of me.
How I Lost the Weight
I was lucky—had no complications, had a great surgeon and team, healed well and recovered fast, and have had more non-scale victories (NSVs) than you could shake a stick at. I’m full of gratitude and amazement at all of WLS’s benefits for me.
Below is a list of things I did (mostly pretty well) that led to my success. As always, your mileage may vary. This was my experience. Yours will be yours.
• Ate the minimum amount of protein—at least 60 grams to start with (hit that target on Day Five post-op)
• Ate protein first at every meal
• Drank 8 glasses of water daily (or at the very least 8 glasses of liquids daily)
Protip #1: Dehydration slows weight loss and makes you feel like crap.• As healing happened and restriction eased, added healthy (colored) veggies, then non-starchy fruits, then whole grains
Protip #2: Our kidneys work overtime when we’re losing weight rapidly and need lots of water to function well.
Protip #3: You can actually die from dehydration.
• Took my vitamins/minerals and Rxs daily and on schedule
• Ate 3 meals a day
• Chewed my food well and ate more slowly
• Didn’t drink 15 minutes before or 30 minutes after a meal
• When I got hungry (not bored), I added one or two snacks of healthy food
• Didn’t graze between meals (note that “a snack” and “grazing” are different things)
• Avoided / minimized highly processed, high-carb foods and slider foods like potatoes, white rice, white breads, crackers, cookies, chips, ice cream
Protip: These foods slow weight loss and, for some people, trigger binge eating.• Moved more than I used to move and gradually kept moving even more
• Followed the Number One Exercise Rule for Old People: Don’t injure yourself!
• Got some sunshine daily, which kept me full of happy thoughts and Vitamin D
• Tried to sleep 8 hours a night
• Minimized stress—for me, this meant I stopped sweating the small stuff and learned that most stuff really is small stuff
• Am seeing a shrink, even though I’m not crazy, to understand better why I couldn’t or didn’t care for my health better prior to WLS and to learn how to do better in the future (as the saying goes, they operate on your stomach, not your head).
I’ve been at or below goal for 4 months now. Here are some things I learned while losing weight and during maintenance (at which I’m still a newbie). Some of these things have surprised me. And as always, your mileage may vary.
• Don’t feel pressured into telling the world you’re having WLS. Do what is best for you. Just know that “telling a few people” may not be the best way to keep your WLS private. There are a lot of mouthy people out there.
• Don’t overeat, but don’t starve yourself either. As your healing continues, eat more healthy food and raise your calories gradually. Otherwise, you may wind up reaching your weight goal but only able to maintain it eating 1,000 calories/day. Ugh! At 143 pounds, my daily maintenance calorie budget is 1,700 calories/day. I am over the moon about that. I think it’s because I didn’t starve myself while I was losing weight. I ate 800 calories during Months 1-4, 1,000 calories during Months 5-6, and 1,200 calories during Months 7-8. As my calories went up, so did my protein grams. I still aim for 100 grams of protein daily.
• Post-op, don’t just eat to lose weight—also eat to become healthier. Learn more about nutrition—macronutrients, trace elements, vitamin and mineral supplements. Read articles and good research. As smart as I thought I was, turns out I didn’t know nearly as much as I needed to know to care well for myself.
• If you’re craving sugar, you’re probably already eating sugar. The only way I know to kill those cravings is to cold-turkey the sugar.
• Don’t let anyone pressure you into having WLS. This is a life-changing deal. A year down the road you’ll probably be able to eat pretty much anything you want, although not in massive quantities at one time. And you’ll need to always be vigilant about your nutrition, meal-planning, eating behaviors, etc.
• WLS won’t prevent binge-eating or emotional eating. It will discourage it, but it won’t prevent it. There are plenty of WLS patients who’ve learned to eat and drink around their tools. I personally know folks who’ve wasted their sleeve, bypass or band with (sigh) sweet tea, Mountain Dew, beer, Wheat Thins, ice cream, chips and dips. What those drinks and foods all have in common, other than being high-calorie and lacking in nutrition, is that the sleeve cannot challenge them. They move rapidly through the sleeve and into the small intestine. You can eat that crap all day long and never start to feel full. Remember, it’s a shame to waste a sleeve.
Very, very best wishes to everyone out there considering a VSG or other form of WLS. You can change your life with WLS if you use your tool well. But you must understand it’s only one tool in a bigger healthcare arsenal that you must acquire and use daily.
Thang ya. Thang ya verra mudge.