A dear friend sent me a message today, asking my advice, and I felt like I needed to share my response.
They asked, “I am seriously considering a lap band or gastric bypass, Can you please give me your advice and hindsight?”
I’m going to be blunt, and give you the worst of it straight up, because these are a few of the things you MUST know to succeed in this.
First of all, it’s very, very hard.
I had the roux-en-y gastric bypass about 10 years ago. It’s a rough month or two of recovery, and my recovery was considered very successful and free of any major complications. There will be pain, fear, a lot of work, a complete change in your cooking, eating, and social habits, and throwing up will likely become a normal part of your day for several months.
I lost about 2/3 of my excess weight (after a little bounce back), from a size 58/60, down to a snug 36, maintaining at 40. These are textbook normal results. For me, I would say the hardest part was mental…understanding that it wasn’t a “quick fix” (even when it felt like it) and that I couldn’t go back to my normal eating patterns even when I started to feel really good about how I looked. You won’t be able to eat the amounts you can now, ever again, but you CAN find other ways to sabotage you weight loss. Many do.
The ability to “melt away the weight” almost effortlessly falls into a finite period of time (12-18 months, typically), and you’ll want to do everything you can (healthy and with your doctor’s supervision) to lose as much weight as you can before your body acclimates and this window narrows. Have a plan!
Also, people, both close to you and strangers, will treat you differently, and that can take some getting used to. That was the hardest part for me. Who I was in most of my social circles (the funny fat guy) changed, and I struggled with my identity, even though I would have told you, pre-surgery, that I hated being “that guy.” You may stop being invisible, and possibly even be a threat to some folks who have taken your presence for granted in the past. There will be judgement and jealousy. Hard-lines will say you wimped-out and took the easy road, doom-sayers will anticipate your return to obesity. Everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE, will have advice.
I spent a lot of time feeling like I was on display, and that the only subject of conversation from my (very well-meaning) friends was my weight loss. This may sound wonderful now, but I found myself wondering, “What did these people think of me before? What did they like about me, if this is all we can talk about?
Overweight people are typically insecure, and that’s not going to change, at least for a long time. It simple transfers to other issues of insecurity. Your focus will, by necessity, turn inward, and if you’re the emotional “giver” of your social circles (and many of us are to feel accepted), people who have been enabled by you may become resentful and drift away
Their problem, by the way, not yours!
It can be expensive too. If I had to do it again, I’d hit some thrift stores in advance and buy 2-3 sets of closes in every two sizes down from my pre-surgery weight to my goal weight. Some of these you’ll only wear once or twice, some sizes you’ll skip entirely.
You may lose interest in some of the (non food) activities you do now, and eventually realize that you were living life doing the things you COULD do, instead of the things you really wanted.
You will lose some acquaintances, and make new ones (I didn’t lose any real friends, tho.)
There will be new fears to deal with, both about eating, and gaining back weight, and there will be times when you regret your decision to have surgery, especially when it feels like EVERYONE else celebrates EVERYTHING good with food! You have to become pretty disciplined, and stay that way for the rest of your life. This is still hard, as I’ve never been particularly well disciplined anyway.
There will be mood-swings, and there will be times you wonder, “If THIS doesn’t make me happy, will anything?” By necessity you will be selfish and self-focused for a time.
Probably the most important thing I would say to anyone considering it, looking back, is that you MUST wrap your mind around the fact that weight-loss surgery will NOT “make your life better”…it’s simply a tool that can give you the POTENTIAL to make your life better. Weight loss can’t be the goal, a better life must be, and you need to fix firmly in your mind what you want that better life to look like, and plan goals beyond weight loss to achieve it.
Your medial facilities should offer you both pre and post-surgery counseling. Take it! In fact, I would say that anyone who won’t commit to taking full advantage of ongoing counseling, shouldn’t consider weight loss surgery, as they will likely fail.
That said, the surgery saved my life, allowed me to improve it vastly, and I would totally make the same decision again. There are moments of joy that can’t be described…the ability to play on the floor with kids or grandkids, buying clothes you like instead of just what fits or conceals, walking your first marathon, not having to “squeeze” into a booth or seat, and many, many more.
I hope that helps, I’m here to talk any time.