No longer geriatric through bariatric

You know those things you ponder that can potentially make a huge difference to your quality of life – and then you decide to take the step, make the change and see what happens? Well, that was me six months ago.

As of today, after 42 days of “the new me”, I am down over 55lbs, no longer taking insulin and have levels of energy I’ve not experienced in decades. Better blood pressure, no longer taking depression medication, better mood and overall, nothing negative to say about the whole process.

How I got here… For ~23 years, I’ve had issues with weight loss and just shy of my 51st birthday I decided to do something serious about it. Diet & exercise programs may work to some extent and I’ve seen some moderate results however nothing seems to have allowed me to shed the excess weight that’s become burdensome. So I researched bariatric surgery, selected a surgeon and started the process.

That begins with an initial consult and depending on insurance, several months of monitoring before they consider the operation. Four months of nutritional advice, psych test, procedure education after which the surgery was scheduled for the end of April.

Prior to surgery, there’s a two week full liquids diet (think blended soups) which was pretty simple for me to stick to. I lost 14lbs during this phase. The last 24 hours before the surgery is a clear liquid only diet and nothing the night/morning of.

The surgery itself is typically done with robotic assistance – I have five small incisions which a month after surgery are barely noticeable. Mine took a couple of hours and I spent one night in the hospital to make sure everything was connected and I could ingest liquids and soft food. Frankly, it was a complete non-event with no pain, no discomfort, no nausea; just like a night in a hotel where they come wake you up every few hours. I was doing laps of the surgery floor six hours after surgery.

Post-surgery you will follow a full liquid diet for about 10 days, soft food diet for another 14 days and then cleared to “normal food” – which means paying attention to what they told you in the education class. This absolutely does not mean going back to your old way of eating.

The results speak for themselves. After 12 years on an insulin pump taking 100+ units per day, I am now down to the occasional shot (2-5 units). It feels strange no longer being attached to the tubing that would catch everywhere, but it’s a good feeling.

Now lighter, free from aches and pains (knees, back), I am also able to walk more – 2-6 miles a day being typical (depending on how much time I spend working). Before the weight loss, standing for more than a few minutes was an ordeal and walking even short distances (say, through an airport) would be painful. Not any more.

My thoughts on a successful outcome:

  • Pay strict attention to the education session as it will outline what you can and cannot do post-surgery
  • Protein intake is key and one of the largest challenges for me because I cannot ingest protein shakes or the isopure protein drinks or powder… it just makes me gag thinking about them. I got around it with steamed fish which gets blended into a soup.
  • Avoid alcohol – your liver will thank you
  • The multi-vitamin you will need to take daily smells pretty disgusting… not found a great solution for this yet
  • Keep an eye on your liquid intake – I still drink regular coffee so need to drink an additional volume to compensate for this, so for me close to 100oz water a day
  • You can’t eat quickly – get used to it
  • You can eat or drink, not both. Some water to go with the food if it needs washing down is possible but don’t push it… you have a 1 cup capacity stomach
  • I’ve been able to drink carbonated water in moderation – I generally let it go a bit flat first (Topo Chico addiction)
  • It’s true that if you were somewhat addicted to something pre-surgery that you may find a new addiction post-surgery. For me, it’s been a hunger for do it yourself home improvement projects which fortunately have a positive outcome
  • If like me, you used to enjoy some bathroom time on your favourite throne, you may be disappointed – both frequency and volume of stools have dropped precipitously. Just think of all the free time you will now have
  • Make sure you take your daily prescribed antacid and if applicable, gallstone prevention medication
  • Talk to your surgeon if you have any concerns post-surgery

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