Most often when people ask me what the hardest part of weight loss surgery is, I answer that the first two months. Those are the months that you spend frustrated at your limited diet, wishing you could chew, tired of protein shakes, learning your limits, discovering foods you can no longer eat, and being frustrated as your body learns how to work with a three ounce stomach. I do still believe that it is a very, very difficult time in post-WLS life. It’s so hard to figure out and so hard to get past, but once you’re through it, its smooth sailing.
Except I was wrong. I’m taking it back. That is not the hardest part. That is the second hardest part. The real test is after you’ve lost your goal weight. After your three ounce stomach relaxes, because your normal daily routine becomes a fact of life and not something you have to think about each time you put something in your mouth, you suddenly forget what you went through all this for. This is where the real test begins and this is why I say it’s the hardest part.
I’ve shared so much of my success, and I do still believe I’ve been overall successful. I’ll share my numbers with you again; I started pre-op at 252 lbs. I have since lost between 115-120 lbs. I say that range because I know that our bodies fluctuate in weight around five pounds up or down and it’s a totally normal thing. There is no reason to be afraid of gaining a few pounds and then dropping it again. I have sat on average at about 134 lbs. I have gotten very comfortable with that weight. However, I’ve noticed in the past month, something has changed.
Now, I’m at 136 lbs as of this morning. Again, totally in a normal range for my body. However, I’ve been sitting at 136 or 137 lately and not dropping back to 134. Luckily, I’m so afraid of gaining the weight back, I immediately needed to start watching what I was eating again. That, it turns out, is a lot harder than I realized. I lost much of my weight just by letting my sleeve do the work. It didn’t take much for my body to want to drop pounds once I was in a place that it could. Restricting my diet, regardless of content, to small meals actually did the job for me. Sure, I worked out (not consistently), but it was fine. But now, when I’m noticing that my weight isn’t fluctuating down as much as it is up, trying to eat better is a struggle.
Those habits we hold onto, the ones we had to break post-op will sneak back into your diet over time. I find that I can eat more than I could a year ago, which isn’t that surprising and it’s okay. I also choose foods that aren’t as good for me. Things higher in calories than I should. I tend to snack in a way I shouldn’t. I have a habit of not eating much of a meal, leaving said meal out and grazing, which that right there is a bad word among WLS patients. Don’t graze! You can slowly take in way too many calories in the day. Suddenly, I’m finding that those bad habits I had to break are leaking into my daily routine again and sure, two pounds up isn’t a reason to panic, but it’s a reminder that the alteration to my stomach can only work for me if I’m utilizing it.
This is the real test. This is the rest of my life where I still can only eat a small amount of food and I have to choose very carefully what foods those are. I have to eat until I’m satisfied, not full. Eat when I need it, not because I’m bored. Eat when it’s necessary to keep me going. I have to refocus all of that. This is the hardest part of weight loss surgery. Not the surgery, not the first two months, not the hair loss, or the stretch marks, or the loose skin. This, right here, facing the rest of my life having to think consciously about what I eat, eating with purpose only and realizing that this is the rest of my life that I will have to deal with this struggle, this is the hardest part.
So, I’ll take the advice I’ve heard before. Don’t focus on forever. Don’t focus so far down the road that you can’t see what’s right in front of you. Meet your goals meal by meal. Treat each meal as a means to be successful. It isn’t about the long-term if you can’t see the steps to get there.