I was chatting with a friend recently, whom I hadn’t seen in over a year and I realised it’s been ages since I gave an update on The Great Weightloss challenge and I really should have written this last month since it would have been exactly one year since the surgery but I guess better late than never right? Exactly, that’s what I thought too.
At the beginning of 2011 I weighed closer to 106 kilos (that’s a little over 233 pounds) than 105 and if you are wondering if at that point an extra kilo even matters, I am here to tell you this: you bet your ass it does. Especially, if like me, you need spiked heels to hit the ‘five feet’ mark on the measuring stick (has anyone else noticed that in New Zealand we speak in metric for weight and imperial for height? No? Okay, maybe it’s just me then….)As I write this I am sitting around 51 – 52 kilos (about 114 pounds) and have gone from a size 24 to a size 8. And it’s all thanks to a Gastric Sleeve procedure.
If you’re new to this blog, or didn’t know me back when I was…oh come on let’s say it, back when I was fat….a gastric sleeve quite literally cuts off a chunk of your stomach and throws it away. Although it is a major operation (hello, two thirds of your stomach are going to end up in the bin – that’s pretty major), it is performed using keyhole surgery and requires two nights in hospital.
After that…the really hard stuff begins. So I thought I’d share a little of that hard stuff, including some of the questions I get asked – in case you, or someone you know, might be contemplating the surgery. Or in case you’re just, you know, nosey….hey, I’m not judging, I’m a journalist by trade, I make a living being nosey.
ISN’T IT A COP OUT – COULDN’T YOU JUST GO ON A DIET?
This would be the most common question I get asked and the answer is this – yes I could go on a diet. In fact I think from the age of 16 – when I wasn’t overweight I might add – I was on a permanent diet. What little weight came off, came back with extras. Weight watchers, the gym, Jenny Craig, dietitians, Atkins, Cabbage Soup (I put on a kilo with that – how do you put on a kilo on nothing but cabbage soup?) – name a diet, I’ve done it. I’ve tried every machine, pill, exercise, system under the sun. My family watched me get up and throw myself into these and none of them worked. I would need only miss a single day and up the weight would creep. And when my blood pressure crept up to 200/114 and my kids were getting into arguments at school protecting my honour because people were calling me, I went to my doctor and asked for help. This was the help she recommended. I took it.
Some addicts go cold turkey by themselves; others go to rehab. Some people lose masses of weight through diet; some of us need surgical assistance. So do I think it was a cop out? Well, I’m not on blood pressure medication, my kids aren’t getting into fights, and I live a happy, healthy, active lifestyle – so no.
WAS IT HARD?
You might be surprised to learn this but yes it was – and yes it is. Surgery is only a tool – I still have to make choices that are good for my health. Truth? I don’t always make great choices. But at least now I make healthy choices more often than not, so I enjoy my little treats a lot more, and for the right reasons.
I get very cold because suddenly, for the first time in my adult life, I have no thick layer of fat protecting me.
If I eat too fast, or too much, I will throw up. There is nothing I can do to stop this – other than not eating too fast or too much. So I am forced to eat regular small meals to avoid being hungry. Because when you’re hungry you eat faster…and that is not a good look when you’re in a conference. Trust me, I’ve done the leg work.
I have to take a multivitamin every day and Losec for acid issues and anyone who has been a regular reader knows how good I am with routine or discipline…NOT. So that has been a challenge; but you only have to forget an antacid once or twice to soon make an effort to remember.
DO YOU GET HUNGRY?
Of course I do. I’m just able to satisfy my hunger much more quickly and easily than I used to. And when I’m not hungry, I stop.
CAN YOU EAT ANYTHING YOU LIKE?
In theory yes, reality no. I can’t eat citrus or apples at all. They taste great going down, not so great coming back up. I can’t eat much in the way of carbs either – and bread especially gives me problems. Fish, chicken, very tender meat, eggs, and some cheese are all fine in small, slowly eaten quantities. Small amounts of ice cream and chocolate in moderation are fine. Popcorn is fine, chips not so. I drink copious amounts of tea and coffee and Griffins gingernuts seem to be a perfect ‘go to’ food.
WHAT ABOUT SOCIAL EATING OR COMFORT EATING?
Social eating is not a problem. I just eat very small amounts or order starters. People don’t generally pay attention to what’s being eaten anyway. That said, I have had two occassions that in retrospect make me smile but at the time were not funny.
The first was when I declined some hot chips at a club while watching rugby. One of the wives looked me up and down and said “are you one of those rabbit women who only eat salads or something?” She didn’t know me so had no idea of the irony of the situation and we were able to laugh it off.
The second was a media dinner I attended that had a three course meal. I nibbled my starter and main course and they were divine and I was very full. It seemed nobody around me noticed how little food I had eaten and I was quite relaxed and happy. Unfortunately one person had noticed: the maitre d’ – and he was not a happy camper. Convinced something was dreadfully wrong with my meal (it was an upmarket restaurant) he kept insisting he would bring me something better until I was forced to explain, in front of a now silent, collection of business people and media why I wasn’t eating. That, girls and boys, was not so much fun.
Comfort eating is comfort eating. We all do it. If I’m tired or grumpy or battling PMS or the movie was just sad dammit, I still reach for the ice cream or the chocolate. I just don’t reach for as much as I used to. And more often than not I’m quite happy with a ginger nut.
DO YOU FEEL BETTER?
What do you think? I’ve lost over 50 kilos, my blood pressure is normal, I walk between five and ten kilometres a day, I’ve taken up boxing, and I want to start running once it’s a bit warmer. Everything is more enjoyable. Now I know there are people out there who are overweight who are protesting right now that their size doesn’t stop them enjoying anything. Good, I am genuinely happy for you. All I know is that for me personally, I ran a duathlon and I walked and I did yoga and I biked when I was fat and I’ve done those things slim – and trust me, everything was so much more enjoyable and easier without the excess kilos. And yes, in case you’re wondering, I do mean everything…..
So yeah, I feel great.
WHAT ABOUT WHEN YOU LOOK IN THE MIRROR – HOW DO YOU FEEL THEN?
This is the second most common question. And I hate it – because people are always shocked with the answer. At the moment, when I look in the mirror I don’t see a slim woman. I still see a fat woman. I still pick up large sized clothes to try on in stores – much to the confusion of shop assistants and the frustration of my kids. “Uh mum, you might want something a little smaller.”
I know I’m slim. I know I’ve lost the weight. I know I feel healthy and energetic. I just don’t see it yet. The bariatric team have told me that’s normal and it will come with time.
WHAT ABOUT LOOSE SKIN?
Well yes there is some loose skin and maybe one day I’ll do something about it. Or not. I don’t know. I’m 45, I’ve had 3 children and I wear a size 8. There’s not much to complain about really. I’ll see what another year of exercise brings and who knows. For some people, especially younger women, it’s a bigger deal. For me, not so much.
WAS IT WORTH IT?
Absolutely. It was worth it for the health benefits. It was worth it for being able to do things with my kids and my man. It was worth it for being able to buy the clothes I’ve always longed to buy. It was worth it for the second look someone gives me in the street – because that never used to happen.
I really ought to get a new photo done as I have lost about six or seven kilos since the most recent. I’ll get around to it. Eventually.