They call it a “surgiversary” – the anniversary of your bariatric surgery – and I hit my three month one recently, capping 12 weeks of new eating habits, sweating at the gym, losing weight and reveling in my reclaimed body.
It’s been a completely unique process – one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, experiences of my life.
I’ve been setting small goals for myself, something I learned years ago in another weight loss program, to divert myself away from the large number of pounds I want to lose overall. First, I wanted to lose 50 pounds by my 50th birthday at the end of January. It was close, but I did it two days early. Then, I set my sights on 75 pounds by St. Patrick’s Day. Twelve days early, I hit that milestone as well. Now, I’m hoping to lose 25 more by the time I get on a plane (with no seatbelt extender!) for our Ireland vacation this April.
My mother commented that this is one of the first times that she’s seen me motivated for so long. I’m setting goals and meeting them. I’ve been working hard at the gym – where I’ve learned that the TRX machine will not topple over on me when I lean way back on the straps for what they call “rowing” exercises – and I’ve been pushing myself to cook more and try new foods. Who knew that sunflower seed clusters dusted with cinnamon could satisfy my sweet tooth?
Protein intake is crucial after surgery, and I have struggled with getting in enough each day. The recommendation from my nutritionist is 60 grams a day, which can be a challenge when your stomach pouch is the size of a hard-boiled egg. And even though I was fine drinking a variety of protein shakes and drinks before surgery, I did not like them afterward. So the nutritionist helped me focus on high-protein foods and getting them into my diet at every meal and even as snacks. That means fish, lean chicken and ground beef (my stomach still doesn’t like steak); also beans, eggs, tuna, hummus, and cheese. I was excited about nuts and brought them as a daily snack until she warned me about the fat content. I have them a few times a week now instead.
With her guidance, I’ve been able to take in the 60 grams of protein most day. As a reward, I have a sugar-free Italian ice after dinner. If I don’t hit my target, I have another portion of protein instead.
Another challenge has been getting in the recommended amount of water – 60 ounces – each day. I have never been a big water drinker, so I tried a variety of sugar-free powder mixes to flavor it. Some didn’t sit well with my new taste buds, which seem to require stronger flavors to stay interested post-surgery. I just kept trying new things – buying a bottle of Hint water here, a dose of Vitamin Water Zero there – until I found a few ready-made drinks and powder mixes that I really like. I also love infused water. I got a special infusion bottle, cut up my fruit the night before, tuck it into the infuser piece that sits in the bottle, fill it with water and put it in the fridge overnight. Again, many of the fruits people recommended – pineapple and watermelon, for example – were too subtle for me. My favorite is lemon or lemon combined with strawberries.
Overall, this is an entirely new lifestyle and it’s working. I just have a new attitude that will not allow me to give up. When the scale doesn’t move for days, I forge on, drinking more water and focusing more on protein intake. When I don’t feel like going to the gym, I force myself to change into my clothes at work and find myself heading in that direction when I get out. My surgeon says gastric bypass is just one of the “tools” but I think it alone has turned around decades of negative and defeatist thinking. That, in itself, is an incredible tool.
Care New England has been following Susan on her journey from pre-surgery through recovery. Stay tuned to find out more about her recovery and learning to live a healthier lifestyle.