In June 2013 I had Gastric Sleeve Surgery, it was a huge decision to make which you can read more about here. This is absolutely the best choice I made for a healthier me and I have no regrets. However, I have had a few hurdles after my surgery, it’s certainly not the easy option as some people think. I still have not reached my goal weight, which I really thought I would have by now. I still have 10 kg to lose and have been the same weight all year. Next week I am starting an 8 week challenge with my personal trainer, to help me get over this plateau. I am stepping up my exercise and will be really focusing on food intake. I’m excited, as I have been a little down lately worried that I won’t be able to move this last 10kg. 8 weeks will take me to just before Christmas so perfect timing.
I still have a bit to lose around my hips and tummy
Sleeve gastrectomy is a surgical weight-loss procedure in which the stomach is reduced to about 25% of its original size, by surgical removal of a large portion of the stomach along the greater curvature. The result is a sleeve or tube like structure. ~ wikipedia.
I am contacted frequently by readers thinking of having the surgery and asked a few common questions which I thought I would share. I am not going to sugar coat it, I will share my truths with you. Please note, I can’t recommend that this is the right option for you, you do need to discuss this with your GP.
I have shared a few posts previously about my weight loss:
- How I lost 20kg in 3 months
- Living life after weight loss surgery
- 6 months, 33kg less and feeling like a new me, well sort of
- 1 year no softdrink, so proud of myself
My hair fell out
A few months after my surgery I started to have significant hair loss. This was my body in shock of the sudden weight loss coupled with me forgetting to take my vitamins regularly. I had bald patches around my ears, lost most of my hair in my fringe, my shoulder length hair was just so thin. I went to the hairdresser and she chopped my hair short to help take the weight off it, which was a big deal for me as I had always said that I will never ever cut my hair short, I love longer hair. I started using a special shampoo, conditioner and a leaving in spray that I massaged into my scalp daily from the Kerastase Specifique range (which I purchased from Stefans). I found about two months after using this and taking my vitamins that my hair started growing back. It’s now a year since cutting it, it is very very slowly growing back, the top of my head is now feeling so much fuller, the bottom is an inch below my ears. I am at the stage where I am getting it trimmed regularly to get the new growth to catch up with the other longer parts of my hair, once it does I will be growing my hair past my shoulders!! I didn’t colour my hair for about 10 months to protect it as much as I can from any further damage.
As you read above it is important to take your vitamins, to be honest though I still don’t take them as often as I should, but I am still functioning. I take fish oil, Vitamin B12 and a multivitamin because of the surgery and I also take Vitamin D because I don’t spend enough time in the sun.
Drinking and eating at same time
I can’t drink and eat at the same time. I can not drink at least 30 minutes prior to eating. I don’t drink while I eat as this fills me up too quickly. There have been times that I have forgotten and do drink after I have eaten and when I do this I become quite uncomfortable and this is the occasions I may feel the need to vomit.
My taste buds have changed. I really can’t stand nor desire anything too sweet and much prefer savoury food now. I never ate smoked salmon before my surgery, I thought it was really awful, now I LOVE it and can’t get enough of it!
I used to love eating a bar of chocolate. Whilst I have had the odd chocolate indulgences I have no desire to eat a full bar of chocolate, it’s now just far too sweet. I think this does have a lot to do with the foods I initially had after the surgery, I didn’t like anything too sweet and just stuck to bland foods. I feel like I weened my body off the sweet food.
After I eat most of my meals or have a drink I get a little burppy. Not sure if it’s because I have eaten my meal too quickly (which I do), but it’s a side effect that hasn’t gone away. In the beginning it was embarrassing, I have now learnt to silently burp.
We don’t often go out for dinner but when we do I do find it hard as I would love to just order whatever I felt like eating, but it’s a waste of money as I can’t eat a full plate of food. Usually I can order an entrée to come out with the main meal, I do this on date nights when it’s just hubby and I, but sometimes the entrée menu is very limited. There is never room for dessert, instead we pick up some ice-cream and have it at home. When we go out as a family my youngest and I usually share a main plate of food (usually her choice). She would never eat a full main dish anyway, so I ask for an extra plate when they bring it to the table and I take about 1/3 of what’s on her plate.
On the occasions that I am not out with my family I do just try to order the cheapest item on the menu and have at times ordered a main meal. I eat what I can but the plate is always still full of food. I feel awful as the waiters always ask if there was something wrong with the food, I just reply ‘no, it was delicious, I’m just full’. But what is harder is they eyes from other people I am eating with not knowing why I am not eating the food.
Eating as a guest
This is really hard, everybody knows I have had the surgery but what they don’t understand is how little I can eat. I have to remember to ask for a small plate of food and I feel awful when I can’t eat all they gave me. What is ideal is when it’s a serve yourself setting and I can just take what I know I can eat.
What were your biggest struggles in the beginning?
I hit a dark place about 2 weeks in, as I could only drink soups, watered down gatorade, sorbet etc. I really struggled with people eating around me being that I couldn’t eat. I didn’t sit with my hubby and the kids while they eat dinner, it was just too hard, they understood. It maybe a struggle in the first few weeks, but it’s such a dramatic change to what you are used to, it does get better.
What does sip sip sip mean?
After surgery all you can have is liquids, but you must sip the liquids very slowly, not guzzle it down. Sip, rest, sip again, rest, sip again. It was hard to adjust to, but you soon get used to. Now I can skull half a cup of water and feel OK.
Do you ever worry how only having 1/3 stomach will impact your life when you are old?
I used to, shortly after the surgery I could only eat half a sandwich with no crusts, I was having visions of me as an old lady only eating half a sandwich, but now I can eat a whole sandwich (with not much filling). Over time you will be able to eat a little more, but not full portion sizes. I think the best impact on my life that it will make is that I will be old. If I didn’t take control of my health I am sure I wouldn’t have got to that point.
How often do you exercise?
I started exercising 3 months after my surgery. I hired a personal trainer to help me train and tone properly after such a dramatic weight loss. I see my personal trainer twice a week and also attend morning boot camp sessions. Doing these sessions was a great choice, as I have somebody to stay accountable with to make sure I keep up with a regular exercise routine.
Do you have excess skin?
Yes I have tuckshop arms, which only recently have started to bother me like this morning when I saw them wobbling when I was drying my hair. It also does get me down a little when I lift my arm up and I notice people noticing my arms. I have an apron fold on my stomach from my pregnancy with the twins. When I have lost all my weight I would like to get the excess skin on my stomach removed. I will only do this when I have lost all my weight though.
Do you ever feel like you’re missing out because you can only eat such a small amount?
Sometimes, more so if we go out for dinner (mentioned above) because I just want to order a nice delicious main meal without feeling like it’s going to be a waste of money. However, I am satisfied with the amount I eat and rarely feel like I want to eat more.
Did you suffer from bad breath and if so what did you do to overcome this?
No I have never had bad breath, but as mentioned above get a little burpy.
I drink a lot of calories (Coffee Milk) and wonder if it will work for me because from what i understand you can still drink.
I used to be addicted to coke, prior to having the surgery I stopped drinking all soft drink and still haven’t had any with the worry that I would slip back into my old habits, so I am staying away from it. I find juice from the shops far too sweet, I make my own at home these days. However, this leaves what to drink very limiting. I drink water (probably not as much as I should) and have 3 cups of coffee with skim milk each day.
Do you vomit a lot?
I can count on one hand the times I have vomited since my surgery and count on two hands the times I have felt the need. The first time I vomited was when I ate a piece of pizza. It was far too oily and my body just rejected it. Another was when I did eat too much and this was the day I learnt what my full felt like. When I feel full I get a feeling in my chest, not in my stomach, when I start to have this dull feeling I know I have to stop eating. Sometimes I am content and satisfied and don’t need to eat more, but if it is an overly delicious meal I do start picking at my plate while waiting for others to finish, I have learnt that at home I place my plate on the kitchen bench and return back to the table, or if out for lunch/dinner I get the waiter to take my plate away.
In the beginning did you just drink water?
I was meant to have hydrolite or Berocca, but I couldn’t stand the taste of them, instead I watered down Gatorade, much like it was cordial, I was told it was still OK and I found that so much easier than just plain water too, water felt really heavy. After a few weeks I put lemon in plain water and then slowly started drinking plain water, now I just drink water, I find Gatorade or cordial too sweet.
What do you eat for breakfast?
For the first year all I would have was half a weetbix and skim milk. Now I have one weekbix and 2 spoonfuls of muesli. I have this everyday as I find it really satisfying.
How many meals do you consume now?
I eat 6 times a day, breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner and a snack. All very small meals, when I first started it was only half a sandwich now I can eat a full sandwich. Meal size is about 1/3 of what I used to eat. I don’t eat anything sweet now my taste buds really changed after the surgery. I prefer savoury so usually snack on savoury items, fruit, nuts or yoghurt, I love yoghurt.
photo credits to Melissa Pratt Photography
With all mentioned above, I still wouldn’t change anything and if I was to make the choice again, I will still chose the surgery. I am feeling so much healthier, fitter and happier. Most importantly I am confident that this has added many years onto my future.
Do you have any questions about the surgery?