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So many people permanently struggle with losing weight. Every time they see their doctor they are reminded to lose weight but aren’t really given any practical advice. Try this diet, try that one, try the 12 Steps, the Cabbage Soup Diet, try Optifast, try Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig.
Eventually, the problem grows worse through the years until their very life is threatened with damaged and arthritic joints, high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, stress on the heart, high cholesterol, infertility, etc.
Searching for help, many turn to surgery. It’s not a good solution but it’s a solution that saves lives. The better solution would have been to have lived a healthy life but we are distracted by bad choices, easy choices, and ubiquitous advertising directing us to cheap, life-threatening food.
For most of us, the choice was to have bariatric surgery or die. This surgery, by definition, can save your life. The downside is that you must now walk the walk. You must decrease caloric intake but keep up on protein and add regular exercise into your daily routine.
There are four basic stages following any of the weight loss surgeries: 1) Immediate recovery; 2) Transition; 3) Losing the weight; and 4) Maintenance.
In Stage 1, you must get off the scale and stay off it. It was never your friend. Now is NOT the time to watch your weight. During the first 6 weeks, your ONLY goal should be to heal. This means water, water, water and beginning to sip protein and ease into chewing vitamin supplements. Exercise should be limited to mild walking.
The scale is a strong draw because of the rate of weight loss. Do not allow yourself to become distracted from the task at hand. Allow your doctor to worry about your weight loss. You need to learn a new life habit of near constant fluid intake. The main portion of your fluids should be water. Most have no idea that the number one reason for readmission into the hospital after bariatric surgery is Dehydration! They have no idea why they are dizzy, nauseous and tired – when you are sick in those first few weeks, you lack hydration.
Start taking in protein drinks as well. Protein drinks provide nutrients in a small volume that is easy to sip. This aids in the healing and makes sure that while you are losing, you aren’t losing organ mass or health.
Stage 2 is all about some transition habits and will last about another six to eight weeks. You may begin (when your doctor tells you it’s okay) to take in some very soft solids. It awakens your body to the notion that it must again digest solid foods. They will be soft in order NOT to tear any of the stitches from the surgery. You will eat painfully slow so as not to accumulate any pressure on any part of the alimentary tract. You must still supplement with vitamins and protein to keep the healing moving.
By now, you should also add whatever exercise your doctor approves of. It won’t be anything strenuous. But you must move and ingest protein.
A great addition to your diet at this point is unflavored whey protein. You can add it to almost any soft food and easily keep your protein up to an acceptable level.
Stage 3 is what drives everybody to this surgery; weight loss and lots of it. You may restart solid foods and exercise fully (with your doctor’s approval always). If you to NOT take in protein during this period, your body will eat its own organs and your muscles will waste away, even with exercise. This is missed by so many. Without proper supplementation during these first two to three years, you will likely reach goal weight but feel like hell. Your energy level will be miniscule and you could even start losing body parts; gall bladders are frequent casualties during this period.
The error here is to get more excited about the weight loss than the improved health. Blood pressure should be near normal by now; diabetes a forgotten memory; sleep apnea a thing of the past and aching joints gone. You will find yourself limber. When you climb stairs, you’ll often have a sensation of floating.
You may also lose your balance as the center of your body mass is lower and your balance is less stable. It’s common to have a backache as you hold yourself differently and even find the way you walk to be unnatural; others will often comment. You will also likely be extremely cold as your body’s thermostat will lag in figuring out your new situation.
These are the things to celebrate; a longer, healthier life. You have arrived. You have approximately two years to learn these new habits. Learn them well.
Stage 4 is maintenance. Herein lies the true goal of the surgery. Stare at the scale for those years and allow your supplementation to lag and this will become known as your rebound stage. You’ll start gaining your weight back because you didn’t learn a new life.
So many feel that by stage 4 they begin to fail. They are wrong. The failure began 3 months after the surgery. You lose the weight whether you supplement or not. You lose the weight whether you exercise or not. You lose the weight whether you are faithful to the program or not.
Stage 3 is all about making serious changes. The problem is that by Stage 4, your body will compensate for the surgery. It will learn again to make you hungry. It will begin offering up every challenge and frustration that you had before your surgery. Your ONLY defense is a good lifestyle during Stage 4.
If you want Stage 4 to be as successful as Stage 3, then you must continue with regular checkups that include a blood workup. Stage 4 is also the time to add scale checks into your life. You are looking for stability in the scale, not the plummeting numbers you saw several years earlier.
The compliments will stop. The ‘victories’ will stop. Changing clothing sizes in a month will cease. Your life will no longer be about your weight. You MUST have developed several years of good habits by now. You MUST by now be excited by life and have something to look forward to besides descending numbers on a scale.
The goal of these surgeries isn’t to lose the weight; it’s to keep the weight off.
While there are several bariatric procedures, there is no ‘correct’ surgery. This can only be determined by tests and discussions with your doctors. It is more a function of the correct surgeon.
Whatever you do, please remember that the goal is maintenance. No more bouncing. I guarantee that almost everybody who has this surgery knows how to lose. What they do not know is how to keep it off.
This surgery can save your life. It is not a jail. Your surgeon is not your jailor. He’s your escape route. Go into this process prepared to change your life. Do not waste this opportunity.
Pick a surgery.
Begin supplementation of protein and vitamins before the surgery.
Have the surgery.
Do what your surgeon tells you to do. Heal from the surgery. Stay off the scale.
Migrate, as your surgeon allows, to solid foods.
Stay faithful to supplementation and begin exercising. Stay off the scale.
Lose your weight. Eat low carb, low fat, and low sugar.
Keep up your protein with fish, shrimp, poultry, cheese, yogurt, etc.
Supplement protein and vitamins.
Learn new skills.
Step on a scale only rarely; very rarely.
Take those new habits and hold onto to them dearly and faithfully.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dana White started his Bariatric story at 485 pounds at age 59. Dana spent 15 years as an engineer in space and defense communications satellites, 15 years as a senior engineer in telecommunications and 10 years teaching math and science. He was too smart to have allowed obesity to take over his life. After all he is a rocket scientist and losing weight is not rocket science!
Dana was absolutely miserable after his 2005 RNY surgery and when wife Alexis took control, she found BE and Susan Maria’s online support and products and it turned into a lifeline for both of them.
As Dana dropped 230 pounds over 18 months, first to go was his diabetes, then the blood pressure normalized and the arthritis left allowing him to even ride his motorcycle again. He has had two heart attacks, as losing weight cannot reverse the damage of obesity, but it allowed him to survive.
Alexis followed suit five years later and had RNY surgery as well. The road has not been easy, but the 135 pounds she lost has made the world a whole lot brighter.
Together they work at making up for lost life and enjoying nine grandchildren and three great granddaughters.