My WLS journey...from the beginning
Wow, I never thought I'd be writing a blog about my weight loss surgery journey, but here we are. After four years of sitting on the fence, umming and ahing about whether or not bariatric surgery was for me, I finally bit the bullet in September 2020, today's post is a little bit of a difficult one, it's was a bit of a cathartic one to write, and I found myself getting a little teary thinking back on everything that led me to bariatric surgery. When I started documenting my journey, I made the decision to be 100% open and transparent about my journey, and the things that led me to weight loss surgery is a part of my journey, so here we go.
How it began
Growing up, I was never the 'fat/overweight' kid, and it wasn't until I hit puberty really early (I was wearing a bra at 9 and got my first period at 10 years old) that I became unhappy with my body. Looking back, I think part of the reason I was so unhappy with my body was because I didn't look like the other girls, I had boobs, hips and curves, while they were still rocking the straight, waif-like, boyish figures, and when you're ballet obsessed doing 2-3 lessons a week, any bit of extra pudge in a leotard is confidence crushing.
As I began to develop into a more womanly body, at around the age of 11, I began emotionally eating, masking the sadness and disgust I had for my body with chocolate (especially chocolate muffins). I continued to do ballet, but as much as I loved it, and my dream was to become a prima ballerina, I hated seeing my hippo-like self in a leotard, and by 12 years old, and at 158cm and 52kg, I developed a bit of bulimia, I say a bit because I have always been a logical person, and the logical side of me knew it wasn't what I was meant to be doing, or healthy, but the ambitious, chase my dreams and emotional side of me won over at times. It wasn't until an amazing teacher noticed that I never ate lunch, and sat me down to have a word with me, that I finally admitted to someone what I was doing and that to be honest, I really didn't like the me I saw in the mirror.
“Christmas came around, I piled in the cookies, gained the week after, lost all motivation and never went back”
The teen years
At 13, my parents decided to move from Cape Town, South Africa, to Mackay, Queensland, Australia, taking me not only away from all my friends and family, but to a small, middle of nowhere, rural town, where everything was closed by 6pm on a Saturday night (it's since improved, I hear). Not having many friends, apart from the one's the school principal paired me with (they became great friends years after), and missing home, I began to emotionally eat again, only this time it was super cheap to eat shit food compared to in South Africa, so fast food and chocolate became diet staples and the weight began to pile on. After a very miserable year, I had gained over 20kgs and while I was happier living in Oz, I was back to absolutely hating my body, only this time I was miserable and overweight.
Once I hit 75kg, my mum decided it was time for me to go on a diet, so at 15 I got introduced to the world of dieting by way of Weight Watchers, that lasted about 4 months, Christmas came around, I piled in the cookies, gained the week after, lost all motivation and never went back, this would become a trend throughout the rest of my teens and into adulthood.
At 18, I gave birth to my son, and one of the memories that stands out in my mind is that two weeks after he was born, I could fit into these skinny jeans I had that didn't fit before I fell pregnant with him (priorities, lol). I maintained a weight of around 72kg for year or so after he was born, and became a single parent when he was just over a year old. I remember that time of my life my body took a beating, I was working, dealing with the gravity of being a single, teen mum and dealing with the aftermath of a relationship breakdown. In those days my diet consisted of one meal a day (normally dinner), a couple of glasses of wine and sugar free Red Bull. It wasn't healthy and within a three months I had lost about 10kg, but I wasn't happy or healthy.
The contemplation era
At 21, I decided to go back to uni, get a degree and start building a life I wanted to live. Uni as a single mother, trying to do assignments, study for exams and toilet train a little boy was hard, and it was at this point that I stopped looking after myself and becoming everything for everyone else (a trait that would haunt me for years to come). My weight ballooned into the low 100kgs, a weight I never in my darkest nightmares would think I would ever hit.
It was at this point in my life I delved into pharmaceutical weight loss solutions, namely Duromine, what can I say about Duromine, it worked I dropped 15kg in 2 months. The downside though I never wanted to eat, which lead to low blood sugar, and nearly passing out most days because I was working out like crazy and not eating.
Steadily my weight crept up over the years with me trying every diet you could think of, from the Atkins Diet, to Keto, and I think I even tried some crazy canned food diet to drop the pounds, nothing worked in the long-term.
In 2016, my dad had bariatric surgery (mini gastric bypass), as suggested by his spinal surgeon to drop weight quickly, and long-term for the back surgery he needed to get. It was while being at home with him during his recovery that I began thinking about weight loss surgery for myself. With him I saw the good (weight loss), the bad (lethargy), and the ugly (dumping), and I wasn't sure if I could go through with that, especially during his recovery, so back on the next fad diet I went. About 4 months after my dad's surgery, seeing not just the amount of weight he had lost, but the amount of energy he had, I began to seriously think about bariatric surgery for myself.
It would still take me a couple of years to put every preconception, and stigma aside and make the decision that weight loss surgery was what I needed to do, because I was never going to be able to do it on my own (I had tried and failed for years).
Making the decision
In June 2020 not long after my 31st birthday, I woke up one Sunday morning and decided to visit my GP and get my blood tests done and get my referral for my bariatric surgeon. I already knew which surgeon I wanted (the same surgeon who did my dad's surgery), so in the middle of August, nervous, I dragged my husband with me and off we went to meet the man who I hoped would change my life.
I remember sitting in his office, and the first words out of his mouth was, "so you like a couple durries", all I remember thinking is, 'so you're going to cut me open, wtf'. But I knew he was good, and he made me feel confident in what he could do, and what I could do if I worked with the tool he was going to give me. So that day there and then, I booked in for my surgery a little over a month later.
My pre-op, Liver Reduction diet was 4 weeks and consisted of 1 shake and 2 high protein, low carb, low fat meals a day for 2 weeks and then 2 weeks of 2 shakes and 1 high protein, low carb, low fat meal. I started my diet a couple of days early, just so that I could deal with the crabbiness, headaches and hunger on the weekend, rather than at work. The headaches lasted a couple of day and I was chugging close to 3 litres of water a day which helped ease it a bit. By the end of the first week, I decided I was good with the diet and asked the surgeon if I could just do the 2 shakes a day and 1 meal, because food was slowly starting to become less and less important to me.
It's D-day, see ya tummy
The day of my surgery, I remember being told I was second on the slate beforehand, and when the nurse took me in to get dressed, I remember another nurse saying that I'd only have time to go to the bathroom beforehand because I was now first (someone else's surgery had gotten cancelled that morning). As someone who had last had surgery when I was 6 years old (tonsillectomy), I was definitely nervous, but all I can remember was the anesthetist, saying 'your husband is the computer man', before I was awake and nauseous, asking the nurse for a sick bag and if I could go back to sleep (I think I woke up around 1.30pm in my room).
The first day post-surgery I was quite groggy, drifting in and out of sleep throughout the day, but I was lucky and didn't experience much pain or gas pains and was up and walking around the ward bored later in the afternoon (I am the worst patient). Day two was the first "food" day, I remember being served lime green Gatorade, tea, water and porridge, the only thing I could stomach that morning was the Gatorade, at room temperature. I saw my surgeon that morning and the first thing I asked him was when I could go home (like I said worst patient ever).
Day three, and going home day, I was done with being in hospital and could not wait to get home. Day three was also the beginning of my crazy new, full of energy life (even if I was super slow at first).
Welcome to your new life
Getting to know my new tummy has been an adventure, to say the least. One thing nobody reminds you of pre-surgery, is that once you have your new tummy, you're back on a liquid diet. For me the liquid stage was probably my favourite stage before 'real food', because I had a lot of energy, it was easy on my stomach and uncomplicated. During the purée stage, I was excited to be able to introduce scrambled and poached eggs back into my diet, however this was definitely my least favourite stage. I think it was because as the foods became more solid, my body had to use more energy to process the food I was eating, which would make me feel so exhausted after every meal.
Week by week the weight began to fall off, some weeks slower than others but always a loss (so far, 🤞) and now a little over 5 months post-surgery, I am down over 40kgs and have more energy than I have ever had in my life. While the weight has come off quickly, and what some might say easily, I have made massive changes to my nutrition and lifestyle.
I now barely eat refined carbs or heavy carbs in general, and while I will have a bite of a chip here and there, the choice to heavily reduce my carb intake is not a decision made for diet or weight loss, but rather one for comfort and nutrients. I find my new tummy does not feel the greatest when I eat carbs (even faux pasta is too heavy for it right now), however what my body does thrive on is protein, fish, seafood, beef, lamb even pork, if it's protein my body loves it. Fat and sugar are two things which I try and keep to a minimum in my 'nutrition plan', again not for weight loss, but to prevent dumping, I've only experienced dumping a few times since surgery and it's an experience I will avoid at all costs (It's how I've gotten rid of my KFC addiction 😂).
Exercise wise I love walking, 4km walks are nothing these days and I take any and every opportunity to take the stairs. YouTube and old workout DVDs have become my way to workout because I can do it at 4 or 5 am when I wake up and not have to leave the house. I am not going to lie and say I workout everyday, because between being a wife, mum, student, working two jobs and freelancing on the side, you could say I am just a tad busy (what else am I supposed to do with my new found energy). But I love exercising these days and try and get at least 2-4 workouts in a week, if we can get 4 or more workouts in, we're having a good week.
If you were to ask me if I have any regrets, I would say the same as so many people, I regret not doing surgery sooner. I am finally living the life I envisioned for myself, and I couldn't be happier.
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