I’ve spent a lifetime making health- and food-related mistakes. They caused me to weigh twice as much as I should by my own standards and even more than the federal government deems I should weigh. They caused high blood pressure, aches in my joints, sleep apnea and other maladies.
I thought I’d purged all those habits when my bariatric surgeon stapled off an egg-sized portion of my stomach to hold my food from now on. The rest of my stomach was useless and I figured the habits would be too. I heard the doctor and nutritionist say the surgery was only a tool in my quest for health. I started exercising and watched what I ate. But, once my stomach started healing and stretching again to allow more food at each meal, I feared some of the bad habits would creep back in.
In the first two and a half months after surgery, my stomach was rigid as it healed. If I ate too much, I could feel it backing up in my upper chest, a pain that at times made me nervous to eat more than a few small bites. Other times, if I didn’t chew things well enough, I’d actually vomit before the meal was over.
As unappealing as either of these situations sound, it sure is easy to avoid any bad eating habits when your stomach won’t comply. But, as it healed, my stomach began to comply more often. It became more willing to stretch to accommodate more food at mealtime. The PA likened it to a pair of jeans fresh out of the dryer. At first, they’re snug and feel tight. The longer you wear them, the more relaxed and compliant they become.
With this healing returned my feelings of hunger, which I hadn’t felt since before surgery. I don’t feel it often even now, but I began to pack a few more protein-based nibbles in my lunch bag and had five smaller meals a day to help.
With compliance, for me, has come temptation. I’ve followed a strict low-carb, high-protein diet since before surgery. I’ve followed my nutritionist’s suggestions and found healthy proteins in cheeses, meat, and by adding flavorless protein powder to soups and drinks. But my family still eats regular meals, there are carbs everywhere I look at home and in restaurants, and I worry.
I know I’m not alone, and I have the benefit of talking to friends who have not been dedicated to their new lifestyle after surgery and regained weight. But, I’m not naïve enough to think the same couldn’t happen to me.
Did I mention that I worry? I think that’s a good thing, for the most part. It keeps me alert and focused. I admit that I have had carbs here and there, even though I shouldn’t, and I’m concerned about the slippery slope into carb-induced oblivion. But the awareness keeps me safe, keeps the carb intake to a nibble.
One area where I might not have as much control is processed sugar, which makes me very glad I chose the gastric bypass over the gastric sleeve. Bypass restricts me from having any processed sugars or I will dump, which is a horrible feeling of nausea mixed with a seizure. I was shaking and perspiring, panting and just wanting to die for about 30 minutes. Knowing I can’t have even a nibble of a donut or a cupcake for the rest of my life has been difficult to accept, but without the threat of dumping, I could not permanently abstain.
So I have a tool in my body, and I keep strengthening the tool in my mind. It’s a life-long journey that’s only just begun, but I’m so glad I’m traveling in the right direction.