So far I’ve talked a lot about how great my experience has been. And that’all true. I have had zero complications — other than when I go a bite too far and my body alerts me to that fact. But today is about the long-term reality of having WLS.
One of the things in having a duodenal switch is the way it changes your biology. It’s basically a combination of a gastric bypass and a sleeve. My stomach was not only reduced to about the size of ones index finger (no, I’m not joking — it’s the closest reference point I have) but the excess was removed. No going back there. And then my intestines were routed to be only about 5 feet from the end of my stomach to my colon. Basically, the surgery reduces both the amount of food I can consume, and how much of the nutrients, including calories, get absorbed. In the end, it is both malabsorbtive and malnurishing if you are not on top of things.
I focus very much on getting in enough protein each day. It’s literally a marathon each day. I have a LOT of lean muscle mass. Some of that is genetics and some of that is from being an athlete all those years. That’s a great thing because muscle helps burn fat. The average WLS patient strives to get 60 gms of protein in a day. So far, most days, I hit that no problem. My doctor, however, wants me to achieve more like 80-100 gms a day to maintain that muscle. That is a challenge. I’m eating soft-to-regular textured foods now, chewing very well (we’ll talk about that in a moment), and that is helping. But, I can only consume about 2-3 oz. at a sitting. That’s of everything that is on my plate. And let me tell you, my eyes are still bigger than my stomach.
I have found seafood is the easiest food for me to digest and packs a powerful punch of protein. Shrimp is one of my favorite foods. Thank goodness I haven’t experienced a change in my taste buds like so many have post-surgery. Chicken, on the other hand, makes me nauseous. The texture, the fact that it tends to run a little drier day 2…lots of reasons. And red meat is just too difficult to digest. Salmon seems to agree with me, but can you imagine how long it takes me to eat an entire filet — days. And at the end of 2 days I’m done with salmon! Ha!
So, I strive to eat balanced, with a focus on the protein, several small meals a day and still, I’ve had one day of success in the range my doc would like to see. Most days I fall between 60-75 gms and that’s just going to have to do for now. But when I start full bore working out (6 weeks post-surgery, for now I just walk every day), I will need to really make a concerted effort to hit my goal every.single.day.
Now, the malabsorbtive side — that requires work as well. I’ve posted pictures above of my daily medication/supplement routine. I realized today that I am taking 14 “pills” a day. Some chewable and some I just have to choke down. I am one of the luckier ones — I can drink water relatively normally. I can’t gulp ever again, my stomach can’t take that, but I can take regular sized sips — enough to get my meds down. And I realize that there are people out there taking far more medication than that and for health issues, not for health preservation — I am thankful I’m in my boat. But, I’ve never been good at taking meds. I’m learning to be diligent in this however. I want my organs healthy. And I don’t want to be malnourished. I’ve seen others who have had WLS who didn’t follow the recommendations. Their skin is sallow, their hair is thin, they just don’t look healthy.
I don’t share these things to simply complain. I have had no post-surgical complications. I am so grateful. And so very surprised. I feel like the poster-child for doing this, but in saying that, I want others to understand it is serious. This is not to be taken lightly. It is literally changing your biology. And there are some out there who will say this is the “easy” way to lose weight. I beg to differ. This is just a tool. It makes it easier to lose, at first, but once you regulate your eating, it takes the same effort as it does for everyone else. It takes consistency, exercise, mental push through when your will tapers off. It’s going to remain my life-long struggle. There’s no guarantee the weight won’t come back on once I reach goal if I don’t keep my focus and be diligent with making healthier choices.
It’s especially interesting how I look at food now. It’s not “pleasurable” like it was before. Now it is literally sustenance. I eat because my body needs food so that it has energy. And eating can be difficult. I get nauseous when I am close to “full”. If I go one step over full, I am in pain for 30 minutes. The kind of discomfort you can’t escape from. And sticky, bile-like liquid comes up every time I swallow to try to keep from throwing up. My eyes water and my nose runs. I have learned not to push my eating that far. I would rather eat again in two hours than push one serving over the limit of what my body can handle.
There are so many new things I’m experiencing and learning. It’s no picnic, but I don’t have one regret. I feel so much healthier than I have in a long time. I have no more swelling in my feet or hands. My eyes aren’t puffy anymore. My color is better overall. I didn’t realize how sick I was until I did this. I have more energy. I can push myself on my walks and it feels good. My knees feel better. I’m sleeping better. I am overwhelmed by all the changes. I am thankful for my surgeon and his team. I have fared this well, in part, because they are all so great. I am thankful for my husband and my family. They’ve been nothing but supportive, and patient, as we all have had to adjust to this new routine. If you asked me right now, would I do this again, I would, without hesitation tell you absolutely, YES. Would I agree that anyone struggling with weight issues should have WLS? No, I emphatically would tell you absolutely not. Not everyone is cut out to follow the protocols, and if you’re not willing to commit 100%, it’s just not a healthy choice to make.
As for me, I am fairing well. I don’t love all the pills, but it’s a small sacrifice for regaining my health. I haven’t felt this good in a long, long time.