When I had Gastric Bypass surgery in June of 2001, it was not big in the media at that time and few personally knew anyone who had done it. It was dramatic news when it came out that Carnie Wilson would be having Bariatric Surgery (her first) which back then people related to as Stomach Stapling, in a Live Broadcast on the internet. It was a novelty, a sideshow, but it did bring attention to a serious problem and drastic solution.

While I was making my decision, I read everything I could find regarding outcomes as if there were ways for me to make my surgery safer or turn out better, I wanted to know about it. I wanted the best doctor; one who had the procedure many times, which was tricky as it was only being done on a large scale in certain regions. I did NOT want to be anyones third patient. Sure, someone had to be, but it was not going to be me!

I knew that I would have to live on a modified Atkins diet for the rest of my life. What exactly would they be cutting? Were they removing organs or just rearranging them? What could go wrong since I was perfectly healthy but just MO? What were the bad things that happened after I woke up. What protein drinks did I need. What vitamins were the best and why.

I figured the good stuff would take care of itself, but the bad needed to be marginalized.

NEVER ONCE DID I THINK “What do the vitamins taste like?” or “I hope the protein shakes taste good.” It did not matter what they tasted like as I had to take them. When I did buy supplements that tasted awful, I still used them. It never entered my brain to NOT drink a shake because I didn’t like it – I had to have protein, the surgeon told me so. The chewable brand of vitamins in 2001 was horrible, but I had no choice but to take them and make an ugly face while I chewed them up. SO what.

The dynamic has changed where todays average bariatric patient is not scared by what will be taking place in that operating room. Since new post ops know so many people who have done ‘it’, they have grown complacent and familiar with the procedure.

You wake up with three band aids on your big bloated belly and go home the next day. The perception is VERY different from just ten years ago when the procedures did a lot more collateral damage and looked a lot worse on the outside. A very smart person I know gave the analogy that if you were to wake up with a giant bolt through your leg, you would be able to see that there was some serious surgery going on, but three bandaids, meh!

On the inside we either have our stomach cut in two with intestines rerouted and bypassed, a silicon band looped over our stomach and tightly cinched with a needle port implanted under the belly skin, or 7/8ths of a healthy stomach completely  removed from the body and all three are major procedures with serious potential for complications.

When the patient is told what to do after these procedures there is another change from ten years ago. It should be that the medical team tells us to ‘jump’ and we ask ‘how high’.  However, due to the endless supply of drivel available on the internet, everyone is an expert and of course knows better than the bariatric team. We deal with many people who have the most ridiculous ideals of how post op life is going to be. Some say ‘yes’ to the doctor but fully intend to push the limits as soon as possible because they know others who have done it and still lost weight.

This surgery is very serious. There are dire things that can go wrong and while only a tiny percentage die during surgery, there are many who are gravely affected by things that take place in the weeks or months after surgery. Many of these problems are caused by the attitude of the patient and non compliance.

Bring up exercise and you can hear the crickets chirping. Hardly any dedicate any time to any movement at all. I was one of them for years. Then I hit a wall and got the wake up call that normal people who are normal weight, exercise three to five days per week and generally watch what they eat. Weight loss surgery just levels the playing field, it’s not magic, and it doesn’t continue to level the field over and over for the rest of our life! At some point we take over the wheel and we take full responsibility for diet and exercise.

There is a duty to do our part in the bariatric process and too many do not keep up their end of the deal. SOME OF YOU ARE MAKING US LOOK BAD. Knock it off. Do you not realize that bariatric people DIE from vitamin deficiencies, mineral deficiencies, gain all their weight back because they go back to eating Big Macs and drinking Coke, get ulcers because they take meds they shouldn’t take, alcoholism and liver disease, bowel obstructions because they ignore warnings and suffer needlessly with iron so low they can’t lift their heads, have embarrassing hair loss, under eye circles, sickly paleness, bruising, leg cramps and many other things that can be prevented by just following a few rules of the road.

Drink your protein shakes, chew the darn vitamins you are supposed to take… it doesnt matter what they taste like. Take a walk a few days a week. Pay attention to your body and if something hurts or isn’t right… see a doctor. If you are compelled to drink way too much wine or overeat when you are full, get help by calling your surgeons office and telling them about it.

All of these rules are much less painful than the consequences.