Making A Decision to Have Bariatric Surgery

An old friend of my named Ada recently commented on a post I made about my weight loss progress.  You can see that and the comments here if you are interested.  Her comments were very thoughtful and informative.  She also mentioned her own fears about having surgery.  Here are some highlights to her comments and my response to each:

Congratulations Keith, so happy for you. I know myself with any significant amount of weight loss it seems to really get you motivated and encourage. Its the plateaus that are killers..lol For me I have chronic back problems which keeps me immobile which contributes to my weight gain which contributes to my pain which contributes to weight gain which contributes…oh I guess you can see the pattern here. I joined Jenny Craig last yr and spent over $500 for the lifetime membership, which I found out later has $100 renewal fee each yr if you go or no just to keep it active. The food averaged $125 every week and I had to drive from Jasper to Gun Barrel every week. I was dedicated to only eating their prepackaged food for 6 months and lost a total of 11 lbs. Thats right eleven pounds and in the first wk off their food I gained it all back plus 25 more. Though I was way over weight before I had stayed that wt for 3 yrs but their diet plan messed up my metabolism something terrible. Well now I am trying to eat halves. Whatever we have for supper say baked chicken and veggies, I will eat half of what I would have eaten. That is something I can do from now on. These extreme diets are not something I could ever stick with. I weigh enough to qualify for surgery but not according to me. There is still too much I havent tryed to stick to.

Ada,

First, let’s address the diets you have or are trying.  Like Jenny Craig, Nutri-system is another of those meal plan diets that seem like a quick-fix-do-it-all type of wonder system.  I know because I tried it years ago and my wife just recently tried it.  For some people, it works wonders I’m sure.  One thing that has become apparent to me is I don’t think these type of systems are designed for people like us.  If you notice the commercials, you don’t really see any big weight loss amounts beyond the 30-50 pound range and 20-30 pounds seems to be their target range for success.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  Any weight loss is good.  However, that is only a small part of the battle.  Keeping it off and maintaining a healthy weight afterwards is the hard part.  Most if not all of those plans will tell you that an exercise program is encouraged for permanent weight loss and that’s a good thing.  Be honest, do any of us really follow the full plan though? You don’t need to pay $125 a week to lose that first thirty pounds. You can do that easily on your own with either a low-carb or low-fat diet.  Believe me, I’ve done it before with both and failed miserably.  It usually took me about two weeks to get the first 10-15 pounds off and I would usually get the remaining 15 off in another two week period.  The problem for me, and it looks like for you too, is keeping that weight off and losing beyond those first thirty.  Some experts tell you the first thirty pounds of weight is mostly retained water anyway and I can certainly believe that.  I’m not going to claim any expertise in that.  I just know how it usually worked for me.  For me, it was a mental thing.  I was happy with that first thirty pound drop.  Even though I was still a hundred pounds overweight, I was satisfied to the point I would go back to my old eating habits.  The next thing you know, I not only gained back the lost thirty pounds, but gained another ten to boot.   What my doctors have told me is you need to do more than just watch what you eat.  You need to identify what is causing you to overeat.  We all have our issues.  I am an emotional eater myself.  I still am even after the surgery and need to get to the bottom of why that is (and I will). You also need to exercise.  Exercise doesn’t have to involve a gym membership, expensive equipment, or even long laborious walks.  The simple act of just “moving” is enough to get started.  You can walk.  If that hurts or is difficult, then sit and move your arms and legs.  Do sets of limb exercises and try to sustain it for a period of time.  Start with a fifteen minute session for each set.  Build up to a “next step”.  It took you a long time to build up that weight, it’s going to take you a little while to take it off if you have physical issues like a back problem.  Eventually, your spirits and your energy will return and you will want to do more.   Building up your cardio system to sustain a long term workout is one of the keys to taking weight off.  I think you will find that each little pound you lose lightens the load on your back and will help you build up your endurance.  It will open a door to the next step in what you can do for exercise.

Were you afraid you would die from the operation? My friend I mentioned before was scared and I really encouraged him but now when I think of it for myself I just am not ready to take the risk. Perhaps what I’m doing now will work for me. I sure hope so and I wish you all the best and look forward to hearing from you..

Maybe I’m different from a lot of people, but I never flinched at the thought of having this surgery.  I worried more about dropping dead of a heart attack on the spot before I got to the surgery table than I did about the surgery itself.   The medications I was on made it difficult for me to stay outside for long periods of time in the sun or I would just get nauseous.  So, any extended exercise beyond an indoor treadmill was just out-of-the-question.  I had no motivations for wanting to do anything exercise-related.  My wife and I would walk on occasion, but even that became exhaustive.  Once, when a simple weekly grocery shopping trip completely drained me, I began hearing the clock ticking down on my life.  Who gets exhausted walking through a grocery store?   I needed to do something drastic.  I needed some sort of spring board.   My spring board became the surgery.  The one thing that helped lighten my worries about my surgery is that it was going to be laparoscopic.  As a matter of fact, most if not all Bariatric surgeries are laparoscopic.  I had holes poked into me as opposed to having my body cavity sliced open.  I’m sorry for being so graphic, but I want to emphasize my point.  For me, the pain was minimal to the point that I never once pushed the little button they give you for pain.   I attribute a lot of that to my doctor and the awesome staff at Trinity Hospital in Augusta, Ga.  Surgery isn’t necessarily for everyone and that is the first thing they will tell you.  It means a big lifestyle change.  It’s a change that I wasn’t quite ready for myself, but I’m still glad I had it done.  The benefits heavily out-weigh the alternative of not having the surgery.  So, if you are seriously thinking about having the surgery, do your research.  There is nothing to fear from the surgery itself.  If you get with a good bariatric program, they will prepare you to the point you will be able to determine if the surgery is right for you personally.  Bariatric surgery is not a fix.  It’s a component to help improve your quality of life.  You are still going to have to make the correct decisions on eating, exercising, and attitude towards what makes you overeat.  Remember that when you are deciding on having the surgery.

Ada, I hope this helps encourage in you some way.  I know how hard it is to struggle with weight issues.  I’m down 52 pounds and have a lot more to go.  However, my energy level is more like what it was when you and I played tag back in elementary school.  Ah, the good ole days… :)  It’s well worth the trip.

-Keith