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So, I’m 38 years old. I’m going to be 39 in a couple of months, and you know what that means? I’m just about 40 years old. For the past 20 years, I’ve been beset by weird ailments: massive hives in university; random seizures; depression; more depression; ulcerative colitis; osteoarthritis; and the list continues. I’ve taken so many prescription medications that I’m the local pharmacy consult for my friends and family.
I’ve had a fairly great life, marred by periods of bad health luck. And I am determined to turn 40 healthier than I turned 20, 21, 22, 25 (actually, I was very very healthy that year – the side effect of having no medical benefits!).
So, last August I started the process that will help me get to my goal of health. In four months, I’m having a gastric bypass, with the hope that I will lose between 70 and 90 pounds around the time I turn 40. The impact of losing that amount of weight should be as follows:
- Reduced impact on my joints
- Increased ability to play higher impact sports with less pain
- Reduced inflammation
- A large amount of excess skin.
Why surgery? Because I was born screaming for food, and I have basically never stopped. And because a gastric bypass shuts off the hormone that causes you to feel hungry. And for about a year, your brain believes it. (Apparently the brain is a tricky bastard and finds a way to make you feel hungry again, after time.)
You know what a year gives me? Time to figure out what real hunger is versus emotional hunger. It’s hard for me right now to tell the difference. It also gets me to reset what my idea of normal food portions is. And to re-establish some really positive habits. Also, to see what I look like when I’m “normal” sized. I transitioned to adult clothing as a size 12, and I giggle when I look back at those pictures because I thought I was so fat. I was so not fat.
Anyway, there are things you need to do to get ready for gastric bypass surgery. Weird things. Things I never thought about. For instance, did you know that you can’t drink when you eat after surgery? You need to stop drinking 30 minutes before you eat and 60 minutes after you eat you can start drinking again. Apparently the fluid can flush the food through your new stomach too quickly for you to feel full. Which causes you to eat more than you should and then you regain weight.
You know what else you can’t do? Drink carbonated beverages. The acid that makes the drink fizzy can cause your new stomach to, well, the way they described it at the info session was a little gross, but basically it can eat through the tissue that’s attaching your new stomach to your small intestines. And then, only once a day. Caffeine is also bad – most people can’t have coffee for six months or so after their surgery. Same with alcohol.
So, I’m in the process of saying goodbye to my beloved diet coke. I’m experimenting to find out what I need to eat in order not to choke on my food if I can’t eat and drink together. And I’m trying to set myself up for success by buying smaller food storage containers and lots of pretty water bottles. And smaller plates and bowls. Because one cup of food doesn’t look like enough on a regular plate, you know?
I’m looking forward – mostly to not feeling hungry for what will be the first time in my life. But I’m looking forward to feeling less pain from shlepping around this body when I play squash or hike or do a triathlon. I’d like to play soccer. I’d like to go on a trip and have small clothes that fold up into small packages. I’m looking forward to having a healthier second half of my life than the first half.
Yes, surgery is a dramatic option. But I’ve gained and lost the same 40 pounds five times. I’ve never weighed within 40 pounds of the high end of the normal BMI for my height. With this surgery, I could legitimately see my normal BMI. (More likely, I’ll still be 10-15 pounds heavier, but close.)
And if that means I have to give up diet coke, I will.