Weight loss surgery challenges

I am currently over eight months out from duodenal switch weight loss surgery. In that time I have lost 109 pounds and gone from size XL blouses to size M and size 26W pants to size 10. My shoe size has also gone from around 8W to 7, and I’ve had to have my wedding rings resized.

For the first few months of this process, my biggest challenges were emotional. As my body changed rapidly, I started to lose my sense of identity. I never realized just how much I identified as “the fat one” until I wasn’t anymore.

Now, though, the weight loss has decelerated, and I’m quite pleased with who I see in the mirror despite some lingering trouble spots. My biggest challenges have shifted to complacency and boredom.

You see, while I was focused on the rapid weight loss, while I could tell I still had plenty of weight to lose, I was very motivated to eat right and exercise. I thought at the time that the surgery was some sort of miracle cure for food addiction; I didn’t really crave anything, and though I got tired of eating the same high protein foods over and over, it didn’t really bother me because I had a goal, and because food wasn’t nearly as important to me as it once was. And I also knew that I had to make sure to work out during the rapid weight loss, so I would lose fat rather than muscle mass. While I wasn’t quite as dedicated to exercising–I never have been–I still did a lot of walking and spent more time at my apartment complex workout room than I normally would have.

But here I am, basically happy with my weight, not losing quickly anymore…and suddenly really wanting to enjoy eating again. I’ve slipped. I’ve had cookies. I’ve had sugar-laden sauces. I’ve eaten too much bread. I’ve gone for fried food–and fries. Thanks to my smaller stomach and rerouted intestines, I can’t eat or absorb as much food, but eating too much of the wrong kinds of food is still bad. It’s just so much harder to keep that in perspective when I feel good and look good and just want a snack. When I see TV characters eating these huge, delicious-looking meals, and I wish I could eat them too, and I know I could never finish those portion sizes. When I start to mourn the me who could enjoy a big slice of cake.

I’m in danger of slipping back into my old patterns of emotional eating, eating when I’m not hungry, eating just to eat.

The thing is, eating these bad-for-me foods doesn’t really give me any joy. They taste better now than they did a few months ago, possibly because I’ve been eating them more and my taste buds have readjusted, but they’re not really satisfying. And then there’s what happens later. Too much sugar gives me severe abdominal pain. Too much fried food gives me diarrhea. Too much white bread or white rice gives me gas. There are compelling physiological reasons not to eat foods that are bad for me. But the delay between the eating and the punishment is just long enough that I can trick myself into thinking it’ll be okay, that the food will be worth it. It usually isn’t, but my emotions don’t remember that. I just want the food because I want it.

I must reiterate that until recently, maybe three or four weeks ago, I didn’t even have this problem. It’s like all of a sudden my food cravings woke up, raring to go…and now every meal choice is a struggle.

Then there’s the exercise. For awhile there I was taking pretty regular walks. Now, they’re intermittent. I spend most of my time sitting or standing at my computer, or lounging on the couch. Errands do take me up a flight of stairs, which is great but not enough. And I’m not doing any strength training. No toning at all.

My forearms look pretty good after all this weight loss. My upper arms do too, if you look at them from the correct angle. But then I raise my arm and you see the huge dangling flap of fat and wrinkly skin. Might this have been avoided if I’d actually committed to working out properly?

I look pretty good in a pair of jeans these days. But take them off and what do you get? Folds of butt skin. Disgusting.

And I still have fat to lose, on my stomach and thighs. Now that my body is smaller, it seems more striking, though I’m able to conceal it pretty well with clothing.

I said before that I’m pretty happy with how I look, and despite what I just described, I am. If this is where my weight loss is going to stop, then that’s probably okay (though I might have cosmetic surgery on my arms and butt).

But as I mentioned in my post about the weight loss deceleration, I still have over a year left to lose weight. It’s possible I could get rid of more fat, and maybe even tone up.

Being complacent about what I’ve already achieved isn’t going to get me there.

So, frankly, I’m a little scared. I’m scared that my boredom over food will continue to impact my meal choices. And I’m scared my complacent opinion that my body looks okay as it is will mean I’ll pass on exercise that not only might help me look better, but would keep me in better health.

I don’t want to give up so soon. I don’t want to say “That’s good enough.” I didn’t expect this hurdle, here in the end game where I really only have about 25 pounds to lose, if that.

So I’m making a different commitment. Before, when the surgery’s effects were new, it was relatively easy to change my lifestyle to adjust to them. Now I’m used to my new gastrointestinal system and will need to put more effort into staying on top of things. This means I will keep my apartment free of things I shouldn’t be eating, and make Sean’s treats off-limits to myself. I will think of the protein first every time, as I should have been doing all along. And I will try to come up with some method of meal planning that isn’t actually meal planning, because I hate meal planning. (I may just go to the store every day for awhile rather than trying to work out a week’s worth of dinners.) As for exercise, I am going to start looking into joining a gym and/or hiring a personal trainer. But while I explore my options in those areas, I’ll get back to doing workout videos that exercise all the muscles, and resume going on regular walks.

These steps should result in a healthier me, and if they also result in further weight loss and toning over the next year, then that’s great too.

When I chose to have weight loss surgery, it was out of medical necessity, but I was also committing to a lifestyle change. I’m not giving up on that change.

7 thoughts on “Weight loss surgery challenges

  1. Hey Heather. Have you heard of CrossFit? It’s super hard (I barely feel fit enough to be in the basic program) but it does a good job of giving you a total body workout. The classes are pretty small so you get more of a personal trainer feeling. There may even be individual classes/ training you could take to prep for the regular class. They are also really in the Paleo Diet which I think is mostly organic protein and may be similar to the diet you are on now. Check it out!

    • I have, actually! It seems pretty hardcore. I’m kind of afraid to try it!

      I’ve looked into the Paleo Diet before; it and Atkins both have similarities to the way I eat now, and I’m actually thinking about writing up a comparison post sometime.

  2. Have you ever thought about trying Pilates and yoga? There are tons of different types of yoga, so you could find a type that would give you more tone and burn than others, or one that would be more calming to you emotionally and mentally, which would help with the emotional eating part, as well.

    Pilates just feels darned GOOD, and I’m glad I’ve gotten back into it, again. It’s the only thing that’s ever been REALLY effective for me, for toning. You can do either in a group, with a trainer, or at home, so you could mix it up, and based on what sorts of routines you wanted, you could mix those up, too, and hopefully stave off boredom a bit longer. SHAPE magazine has a GREAT Pilates app (They actually have quite a few really good exercise apps, so you might want to check them out!) for the iPhone, and I use the routines in it regularly.

    GOOD LUCK getting over this hurtle! If you want to do it, you can sail through it!! :)

    • I tried yoga once, but it was really uncomfortable, difficult, and even painful. But I was a lot heavier then, and a lot of my discomfort was due to how hard it was to support my body weight.

      I’ve never tried pilates. Maybe I’ll check out that iPhone app!

  3. Can you ride your bike to the store? I do that.. and you know what the benefit is? its not the ride, its that when you get to the store you are totally uninclined to buy the wrong stuff, because you just got off your bike!! As you well know, the whole thing is a big mind game. you where bound to hit a trouble spot sooner or later. You are this far, just push. the excersize is a great idea.
    What 5k are you training for?

    • Unfortunately, I do not trust the drivers here not to kill me. :(

      I’m not training for a particular 5K. I’m just training so that I can run for half an hour without stopping. I actually won’t cover 5K in that amount of time, because I run really slowly. At least, that was my experience back when I did 5K training before.

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