I’ve been struggling this weekend to find the creativity and motivation to write about some vulnerable topics like family support and stigma around surgery. I really want to do these topics justice and my head is not in the game. Instead this weekend I’ve been feeling a lot of the frustrations and post op struggles boiling to the surface.
So I thought – hey- this is a perfect time to write about the non insta worthy side of recovering from bariatric surgery. I’m hoping this post will serve 2 purposes – 1. To show the ups and downs of the recovery process and 2. To allow me to vent and capture this phase in writing.
I have a habit – good or bad is a glass half full question – of not giving recognition to the hard parts of life where due. I tend to push through or bottle up whatever the situation is. Usually a happy or sad video will cause the dam of tears to break, I have an emotional release and then I look back and analyze what has been weighing on me.
This phenomena caught up to me this weekend. I needed to force myself to chill out and relax, not to push myself, but also not feel guilty about doing so. My body has also told me to take a step back and not rush the healing process.
I have to say, I am overall very happy with my post operative course. I hate being nauseated and that was a real fear I had going into surgery. Sure there was some immediate post operative nausea but I have been very lucky to not experience ongoing nausea, nor any vomiting. I’m getting used to my full cues and to listening to my body on whether it will tolerate a new food or texture.
I thought that my laparoscopic incision sites were healing well as they were all dry and scabbed but last night as I was cleaning I learned that in-fact the wounds are quite deep and possibly infected for 2 of the 5 sites. Being a nurse and a patient is a tricky thing. Knowing what you need but not being able to get the dressing supplies or other treatments is stressful. Even before COVID I was not interested in going to ERs and now that feeling is even stronger. I am hoping I can see my bariatric team or family doctor tomorrow, and will take care in the meantime. This definitely feels like a set back. I had plans to clean and do laundry today but that has all gone out the window. I realize that I need to slow down and take care, but I wish my body chose a different way of sharing that message.
Anyone who has ever sat down to a meal with me AND my family pre op knows how fast we eat. I am fully aware that eating fast is not the greatest but it was a habit I had for a long time. It takes the body up to 20 minutes to feel full, so when you eat to quick you can feel overstuffed in that short period of time – and will definitely consume more than you intend to. Part of working on intuitive eating before surgery was learning to slow down meals, chew throughly, put down the utensil in between bites, and stop eating at the first cues of fullness. I mean I still ate quickly but I do think there was an improvement.
Post op 1 month, I still need the stopwatch on my phone to make sure I’m not eating too fast. I am chewing throughly and putting the spoon down between bites but without watching the time I go for that next bite too fast. I have had a few meals that I know I ate too fast and the discomfort afterwards was just not worth it. I am concerned about going back to work and feeling rushed to eat with my busy schedule. This is a goal for April for sure. And with COVID its difficult to eat or drink in areas with other people, so I will get my steps in walking to the break room or office to make sure I’m eating and drinking – hold me accountable blog!
When I lived in Newfoundland I held a record for being able to chug a can of carbonated alcohol made with yeast and barley – 51.9 sec to finish the can. Not something I would put on my resume, but an example of how easily I can quickly drink a beverage. There is (or should I say was) nothing more satisfying than downing a full water bottle after a hard work out, or drinking with a meal.
Sadly these are all activities I can no longer participate in. While in the grand scheme of things I know drinking large amounts quickly will be a small sacrifice in the end – it’s still a struggle to get used to in this first month. I do hope to be able to get to a point where I can have a sip or two of something with a meal but for now I set the 30 minute timer after my last bite and stare down the clock until I can drink.
I think for myself I had followed many people on social media who are 1 + years into their weight loss surgery journey and I subconsciously thought I’d be a size 16 going back to work in one month (I was a Size 20-22 pre op). Somewhere deep down I was convinced I’d need a whole new wardrobe before I could return to work.
Obviously this is extremely unrealistic, and I’ve come to terms with the fact that no, your old bra still fits, it’s not too big yet. I will say that work clothes which fit very snug pre op are now fitting well and are more comfortably, so that is a non scale victory. And as for new clothes- I think I’m going to wait until I absolutely need them, not just because. As stores are open now and all have amazing deals after being closed since November I did consider buying pants a few sizes smaller – but I decided no – let’s wait until I think I need that size and try them on. That will be a great feeling.
Body image and body dysmorphia is extremely common in obese individuals, especially those who have had weight loss surgery and loose a lot of weight quickly. I haven’t had that experience yet but I’ve also not reached a point that I haven’t bounced around from in the last few years. Another thing I consider is how I viewed my body before having surgery. I remember telling my therapist that when I look in the mirror I see someone who is curvy, but sexy and not that big at all – but when I see a picture of myself I feel like I look 2x bigger than the person in the mirror. My therapist told me that this feeling is common in people who are overweight but still very athletic. This is all to say that if anything I feel like the body I now see in pictures is meeting up with the body I see in the mirror.
And for the record even before surgery I felt strong, sexy and confident in my skin – I was hoping to portray in that last paragraph that my insecurity came out when looking at pictures rather than the mirror.
Weight stalls are common as well post op. Every single person is different and the body is still healing. I was expecting a 2-3 lb loss every week – so when I almost didn’t loose anything at week 4, I felt discouraged. I wondered if it was something I was eating or if I wasn’t moving my body enough? I checked in with the dietician from my bariatric program and she was so supportive. She normalized stalls at all stages and encouraged me to stay on track – not to compare myself to others.
I worry seeing social media posts from others on the same post op journey who challenge each other to set unrealistic weight loss goals and revert back to full liquid diets one month on to reach those goals. I know there is nothing I can do but I worry about the people who look up to those for advice and support.
Overall I’m Happy with My Progress
At the end of the day I am very happy with how far I have come. I couldn’t have asked for a better support system in my family and friends! I’m so excited for the future and I know all of these struggles are small bumps on the road. Your perspective of how bad the bumps are depend on where you sit on the struggle bus. Sit up front you’ll barely feel them, sit in the back and you’ll go flying. I’m learning to sit at the front of the bus, to recognize my struggles and allow them to live in the light so they don’t overwhelm me in the future.
I hope you all have a wonderful weekend and thank you for 1000 blog views!