Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy - Seven Months Post Surgery Reflection
Deciding to take the first step in gaining control of your weight and your life is for many of us the hardest step of this journey, but it is also the most rewarding. Seven months post, Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy (VSG) I'm doing a little soul searching and reflection on the seven things I've learned in my seven months since the surgery.
I recently wrote a blog on my journey to weight loss surgery and the road that lead me to decide that this was the best path for my life, to once and for all take control of my weight problems. Post VSG life has been one hell of a ride, filled with many ups and downs, and a tonne of learning experiences. Over the past seven months, I have totally transformed not only my body but my mind, my relationship with food, and probably most importantly for me, the relationship I have with my body. While it hasn't always been easy, it has definitely been one of the most fulfilling journeys I have ever been on.
Seven Months, Seven Lessons
Over the past seven months, I have learned so many things about my body and myself, that I thought it only fit to reflect and share what I have learned on this wild ride to get to where I am today.
I am stronger than I thought I was
Seven months ago, the thought of exercising almost daily come rain, hail or shine was an absolutely foreign concept to me. I always admired people who managed to exercise, practice self-care, and work like a machine, while wondering how do they manage it all. It wasn't until two weeks post-surgery, that I discovered their secret, showing up for yourself.
If you've ever read any self-help books, you'd know that nobody is going to show up for you, you've got to do it for yourself. I remember having a tonne of energy around the second week after VSG surgery and begging my surgeon to let me exercise. He agreed, allowing me to cycle and swim. The very next day I headed out and bought an exercise bike, I managed to cycle for 2 minutes. Not great and definitely not a workout that was going to do much, but it was a start. Over the last seven months, I have continued to exercise, mainly walking, to begin with, and now seven months later, I can easily manage a 45-minute cardio workout, followed by pilates or strength training.
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be able to do that, but I have discovered that nothing is impossible once you begin trying. Yes, today it might be hard, but if you push yourself that little bit further, each day, eventually you will get there.
Patience is key - it's a marathon, not a sprint
I remember waking up after surgery, in my hospital room and looking down thinking, so why am I not skinny yet. Blame the anesthesia, blame ignorance, I truly wondered when it would begin to happen. If you've followed my journey on the gram, and have seen my weekly weigh-ins, you'd know it began to happen immediately.
I've been lucky to consistently lose weight every week, losing an average of 1kg (2.2lbs) per week. I've also been lucky enough to not have had a stall yet. But all those great things aside, there have been many times, especially in the beginning where I often wondered why am I not losing faster, why is my body not changing as fast as I want it to. And I had to realise that it took a good decade to get to the weight that I was pre-surgery, and those extra kilos were not going to move overnight. I had to realise I had to be patient, I had to be consistent, and most importantly I had to realise that I had to above anything, trust the process.
Trusting the process is probably my most used line whenever anyone asks me for advice post-bariatric surgery, but it really is for me the most important lesson to learn, it is a mantra that gets me through every hiccup, every hurdle, and every moment when I think nothing is changing.
“Trusting the process, is a mantra that gets me through every hiccup, every hurdle, and every moment when I think nothing is changing.”
The highs are incredible, and the lows can be so low
The highs I've experienced during the last seven months have been incredible, almost euphoric. I remember crying tears of joy when my weight shifted from triple digits to double digits. But the lows on this journey can soul-crushing. Around week six to eight after surgery, I remember having numerous days where I was so down about everything, from what I wanted to eat, to not being able to eat much, to just not feeling my new body and the changes that were happening.
I had to really take a long, hard look at everything and come to the realisation that, I had not long had major surgery. I also had to do a little research and learn that the mind-gut connection is a very real thing, and I'd just had 75% of my stomach removed, no wonder my hormones were up the wall. It does get easier though, and after the first three months my moods became a little more normal, and while the highs are still some of the biggest highs ever, the lows are never as low as they used to be in the beginning.
Food post-bariatric surgery does not have to be boring
I loved food pre-surgery and would eat for the taste, if something was good I'd eat it until it was all gone. Obviously, post-bariatric surgery, that is no longer an option, and it's ok. It's ok because, now I still get to enjoy anything and everything I want to, just in smaller amounts. Food post-VSG has in all honesty become a passion of mine, I love food and I love creating meals that work for my new stomach, so much so that I've shared my meal prep Sundays on IGTV.
While there are a few foods that I have been avoiding, or having very tiny amounts of, mainly refined carbs like pasta, sugar, and white bread. It's not because I can't eat it, for me there are no rules around food anymore, this is not a diet, this is life, and I need to live it, not obsess about carbs and fat. The reason why I avoid these foods is that pre-VSG I didn't listen to my body, sugar and refined carbs would make me exhausted, and give me cramps but I still ate it and suffered the consequences, because I was addicted. Post-VSG me, however, chooses to eat these things rarely, because when I do I know I will have two, maybe three bites if I am lucky and I won't have room in my tiny tummy for anything nutritious that is going to benefit my body.
Flipping my mentally from eating for flavour to eating for nutrition has made food more exciting and enjoyable, post-surgery food does not have to be bland and boring.
Find your tribe
When I started this journey, I created an Instagram account purely to keep me accountable on this journey because I didn't know if I was strong enough to do it without the accountability. What I didn't know then was that that account would bring so many amazing people into my life. With the Instagram page, I have made connections with so many sweet, caring people across the globe, people who have become my biggest cheerleaders and best friends. While I share my journey, highs, lows and everything in between, it honestly is the amazing weight loss surgery community I have on Instagram that keeps me motivated and lifts me up through every moment of this wild, crazy ride.
Heading south - its a mind f**k
Bye-bye boobies, that's the name of my future autobiography, because in the last seven months everything has gone south. I know so many people worry about loose skin post-bariatric surgery, and I am going to be real, it's unavoidable, the degree of loose skin you have really depends on your age, genetics, original skin elasticity, basically all those wonderful things we have no control over.
So my boobs are deflated empty sacks that I hate looking at without a bra on, my stomach is super wrinkly and, when I am doing pilates it hangs. Don't get me started on my arms, I have smacked myself in the face with them while doing kickboxing, and my thighs will never see a Victoria Secret runway. Yes, it's gotten me down on numerous occasions and there isn't a day that goes by that I am not looking for a plastic surgeon. But I'll let you in on a secret, I would take double the amount of loose skin I have, to have the body I have today. I love the way my body looks (in clothes), but I also love the way my body feels with 50+kg (over 100lbs) gone.
Comparison is the thief of joy
Instagram can be a blessing and a curse, while I love it for my amazing support system, at times it has been hard to look at someone else's transformation pictures and think, why doesn't my body want to lose like that. It took me a while, but I had to realise that I needed to stop comparing my journey and progress to someone else's. There is always going to someone who loses more than you, just as there will be those who lose less than you.
This is not a competition, the only competition you have on your journey is the person you once were, and each and every one of us is winning that race by a long shot. Seven months on rather than comparing myself to others, I now compare myself to the person I once was, and that is so freeing.
Top Seven Tips After Gastric Sleeve Surgery
1. Educate yourself
Research health and nutrition, find new recipes so food doesn’t become boring after surgery. If your tastes have changed, try new things. Listen to your new body.
2. Take your vitamins
Getting the correct nutrition from food alone after bariatric surgery is tough, ensure you’re getting the right nutrients from supplements, and always get your blood work done regularly to see if you're lacking in anything.
3. Protein, protein, protein
Protein should be your primary focus at every meal, not only will it help you maintain your muscle mass while losing fat, but it will help you feel full for longer.
4. Eat mindfully
Give meal times your full attention, no distractions. Focus on your meal while you're eating and stop the moment you feel full.
5. Stay Hydrated
Drink as much water as you can, keeping in mind the 30-minute rule. Staying hydrated will stop you from mistaking thirst for hunger.
6. Focus on Whole Foods
Avoid processed foods such as packaged and boxed items when a fresh alternative is available. Your body needs as many nutrients as possible when your portions are tiny, so make sure your meals pack a nutrient punch.
7. Stay Positive
Sometimes, post-surgery life is difficult, and everything won't be perfect every day. Patience is the key to success. Reaching a goal is a journey that takes time. It’s a mixture of responsibility, hard work, and dedication, and it's ok to have a few hiccups along the way.