Bariatric surgery Feed

The perks of being a weight-loser

If you are a friend or family member of mine, you know I'm a bit of a neat freak. My favorite word is "tidy." I dash around the house from room to room, shouting "TIDY!" when a room is up to snuff. I pretty much do this every morning.

But even a neat freak can slack from time to time, and I felt myself sliding late last year. Everything was stagnant or going in the wrong direction: Water drinking, exercising, housecleaning, spending, going to bed at a decent hour, and -- yes -- weight.

I felt stuck in every area of my life.

Fast-forward to this year. I'm down a little more than 50 pounds since New Year's Day (which still BLOWS MY MIND), and that momentum has spilled over into nearly every facet of my life.

Tidy-shoes
Tidy-shoes
Tidy-shoes

  • The laundry not only gets done, but folded and put away in the same day.
  • The sink (usually) isn't full of dirty dishes.
  • I run the dishwasher and the clean dishes get put away.
  • Tabletops are free of clutter.
  • My magazine pile is down to a short stack instead of unwieldy mountains all over the house.
  • My closet is culled (mostly because I got rid of a bunch of too-big clothes). 

It's something about not being stuck in my weight loss that has jostled loose all sorts of stagnation. 

I've got some other things I'm working on that I hope to update y'all on soon, fingers crossed.


Stuff I love: Clean protein that isn't full of junk

There are around eleventy-billion purveyors of bariatric supplements and foods on the Internet. But as someone who has spent her lifetime eating "diet foods," I don't plan on stocking my pantry with "cookies," and "puddings" and "soups" and other prefab "foods."

Why are these freak-show foods so prevalent? 

Is it because bariatric surgery patients are jonesing for cheesecake and caramel macchiatos? 

mad scientist
This is not how one makes lunch.

I am determined to make my post-op food as clean as I possibly can, and I know that runs counter to some people's reliance on boxed and canned and bottled bariatric foods. So here's my list of clean favorites. First stop:

Premade protein shakes 

Before I even had my surgery in February, I had a couple weeks of a pre-op diet that relied increasingly on protein shakes. We'll get into protein powders in a bit, but the easiest way to down a bunch of protein is to grab a premade protein shake in a cardboard carton. And there are loads of gross ones out there (OK, gross to me). I tried a few varieties of one super popular brand (Premier), and quickly found them way too sweet. I know some people absolutely love them, but after surgery my disdain for sweet stuff got even stronger. It's kinda crazy -- before surgery I didn't really have a sweet tooth per se; it was more of a "food tooth." But after surgery? EVERYTHING is too sweet, especially foods that have artificial sweeteners or stevia. So now I either go without any sweetening or add a little honey, agave or sugar (usually just a teaspoon in my tea). 

Anyway -- the only premade protein shakes I can put up right now (I say that because my tastes are in a constant state of flux) with are Orgain Clean Protein. They have 20 grams of protein and are much cleaner than a lot of brands. There is some stevia, but it's not overkill.

Protein powders: Whey and vegan

I'm narrowing this list to whey and plant-based because I want to keep things simple. I don't mess with soy, and my dietitian told me that whey is the best absorbed protein source. I'm throwing in vegan protein because there are times my pouch is cranky and doesn't want the foamy texture that whey produces.

Man, I have been on a visionquest with protein powders! I made a lot of smoothies before surgery and already had a big collection of protein powders, but all bets were off after surgery. Protein powders that I used to like I now despised. Once again -- too sweet, too much aftertaste. So I was on the hunt for naturally sweetened protein powders that didn't contain stevia.

Whey protein

Chocolate: Whey to Go! Who knew! One of my old, old favorites fit the bill perfectly. I hadn't bought Whey to Go in years, but I checked the label and BINGO! no stevia. It's sweetened with beet sugar and has 9 grams of sugar per serving. It's a little higher in added sugar than my dietitian recommends, but I hadn't been drinking ANY protein shakes, so I'm not sweating the extra few grams of sugar. There's 20 grams of protein and a relatively short list of ingredients.  And it's fairly low cost -- some proteins are ridiculously overpriced (I'm looking at you, Shakeology). The chocolate flavor has a nice depth of flavor, so I haven't had to hit the bag of cocoa powder to amp it up. 

Vanilla: Garden of Life Organic Whey Protein was the first stevia-free whey protein powder I found, probably because it says "no stevia" right on the front label. This protein has 21 grams of organic whey concentrate and 11 grams of sugar, 9 of them added, which is a little high, but again, I'm not sweating it since my overall calorie level is so low for the day. It's really clean tasting, and while it isn't labeled vanilla, there is vanilla in it, so it's like a light vanilla. It's really good mixed with frozen fruit as it lets the fruit really shine through. I made a great smoothie with frozen mango, chilled green tea and a serving of this. 

Plant protein

Chocolate: Apparently Aloha protein powder has reformulated its recipe since the first time I tried it because I really like it now! Sometimes plant-based protein works better for me when my pouch needs something simple. It doesn't tend to foam up as much as whey-based protein powder. Aloha has a nice dark chocolate flavor while only having 4 grams of sugar from coconut sugar. It also uses monkfruit, which doesn't seem as "aftertasty" as stevia. There's 18 grams of protein that comes from pea, pumpkin seed and hemp, and you can buy it online or at Target. 

I don't have any favorite plant-based vanilla protein powders yet, but if I do find one, I'll update this list.

Other proteins: Collagen and Genepro

Collagen is a little controversial because a lot of dietitians don't think collagen peptides are a good protein source, but I use it pretty regularly because it disappears into any liquid hot or cold, and doesn't add any flavor. Many mornings my breakfast will be a cup of tea with a little honey and two scoops of collagen peptides. Hey, even if it isn't the highest quality protein, my cup of tea gives me 18 grams of protein from collagen, which is supposed to be great for your hair, skin, nails and joints, and all of those can use a little help. I haven't tried a lot of collagen brands, so I just stick with Vital Proteins collagen peptides, which you can find nearly all over. It also comes in single-serve packets, which are great for traveling. On our last road trip, I brought a bunch of packets with me and stirred them into coffee, tea and soup. Are there better brands you like? Lemme know in the comments.

Even more controversial is Genepro protein powder. A tiny little scoop -- 1 tablespoon -- purports to give you the equivalent of 30 grams of protein. But many people refuse to believe the claims made by the manufacturer because the serving size is so tiny. It's unflavored, mixes really well into hot or cold liquids and is great if you're low on protein for the day. I just don't know whether I'm getting 30 grams of protein or 15 or what!

I was going to go into vitamins and other things but I'll save those for another day -- this is plenty of food for thought.

 

 


Who is this person? Apparently, it's the new me

I had just gotten done at the gym and needed some Propel, so I swung by a local grocery store. I got my Propel (Yay, it was on sale!), plus a few other things, and loaded up my trunk. As I got in the car, I was facing a Starbucks in the shopping plaza. 

It was nearing noon, so I figured I'd stop in and grab lunch, so I looked at the Starbucks app on my phone to order something to go. 

I scrolled past the entrees, the drinks, the specials and nothing jumped out at me. Remember, I can either drink or eat -- can't do both at the same time anymore because of the surgery. 

Cold brew? Nah. Iced tea. Not feelin' it. Egg white bites? Hmmmm, nah. 

Nothing. Nothing called out to me. 

No starbucks
WHO IS THIS PERSON?!?

Pre-surgery I could always make a successful Starbucks run. There was always something I could find to order. Something always looked or sounded yummy. But now? I just wasn't interested. All I wanted to do was go home, take a shower and drink a Propel. 

In a weird way, I was a little disappointed in my disinterest -- but just a little disappointed. I chose to have surgery that would shut down my constant hunger and overwhelming interest in food, and it worked. A lot of the time I have to almost force myself to eat, especially around dinner. And then when I do find something to eat, I can't eat much. (Thank goodness for unflavored collagen peptides and protein powder -- I put them in lots of things just to get my protein quota for the day.) Last night I had a cup of "Oprah soup" (O That's  Good Creamy Tomato Basil Soup) with a scoop of Genepro whey protein. Fortunately, the protein powder just disappears into the soup, but just to be safe I added a tablespoon of shredded Parmesan. Tiny Tum-Tum was happy.

In other news

From my pre-surgery doctor's appointment to April 30, I'm officially down 50 pounds, which blows my mind.


Countdown to Onederland!

Countdown to onederland

Hey, everyone! I haven't been around here much -- I've been catching up on work that had taken a back seat to getting myself feeling and eating somewhat normal. Some updates:

  • I've been working at the gym twice a week with a trainer because I really, REALLY don't want to lose muscle with all this weight loss. And so far so good: At my 2-month bariatric checkup, out of the 19 pounds I lost from the last time I was at the doctor (6 weeks), 18 of those pounds was fat and only 1 pound was muscle (or technically "fat-free mass") ... which is GREAT! There's really no way to lose 100 percent of your weight in fat; a little muscle loss is to be expected. But my goal is to try and hang onto every pound of fat-free mass that I currently have (which is currently 119.4 pounds) and perhaps gain even more. 
  • Looking more at the printout from the super high-tech Tanita scale at the doctor's office (which is super cool because I love gizmos!), my my target body fat has been adjusted down from 30 percent in February to 25 percent now, and my predicted goal weight went from 172 to 159 pounds. Apparently the scale has a lot of faith in me! Point of reference: I weighed that in college and I THOUGHT I WAS FAT. Yeesh. 
  • My weight loss was fairly slow the past couple weeks because I haven't been working out all that much, and I've been testing my pouch with more calories and different foods. The trial and error can be, frankly, nauseating as I find what foods work and what don't. So far, Tiny Tum-Tum really doesn't like solid animal protein but it does OK with ground-up ones, like ground poultry and even ground beef. I also think that it really doesn't like bread very much, so I should probably knock that off. It loves protein bars, cheese, yogurt and smoothies.
  • I've found myself starting to stay up too late again and wander into the kitchen. But since I have slain the angry polar bear, there's not a whole lot of damage I can do, save for maybe a cheese stick or a quarter of a peeled apple. Still, I need to work on getting to bed earlier and staying away from the kitchen, just to clean up my habits.

But I've officially started my Countdown to Onederland because I'm only 17 pounds away!

(So, yes, that means I'm revealing my weight -- 217.1, as of today. It's been a while since I said how much I weighed.)

And here's a photo update that I did at the beginning of the month -- I'm actually 9 pounds lighter than that now:

Feb to april

 And if you're digging the workout capris in my "before" photo, I'm selling them on Poshmark right now.  They're by Fabletics, size 2X and incredibly comfortable.

The bulk of my too-big stuff usually gets sent to online consignment shop ThredUp because it's a lot easier and the site is desperate for plus-sized clothes, but I thought I'd give Poshmark a try for a few items.

Here is some free money for clothes!

When you join ThredUp through this link, you get $10 to spend on your first order.  I also have a $5 credit for you at Poshmark when you sign up with my username (GOGOGAIL) as your personal invite code on your own device. To earn credit, you will need to enter username GOGOGAIL as the referral  code at the time of registration directly within the Poshmark app.

I've been doing a LOT of closet cleaning, and let's just say my empty hanger collection is now huge. The purging has also extended to my bookcases, and I've been hauling boxes of diet books to the local library. Ain't nobody got time for them!


Why did I decide on gastric bypass surgery?

Il_570xN.763140040_cww0
Yep, that's a gastric bypass plush toy!


Thought I should elaborate on how I came to the decision to get bariatric surgery, because for years I was dead set against it.

  • I thought it was the "easy way out." 
  • I thought it was for people with no willpower.
  • I thought it was super dangerous.

Nope, nope, nope on all counts.

Bariatric surgery is not a magical fix -- believe me, I've seen people get surgery and either lose very little weight or lose a bunch and gain it right back. There's nothing easy about any of that. It takes planning, determination, planning, exercise (and did I mention planning?). You need to make sure you're getting the right nutrients, water, protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Thankfully, I'm already a supplement junkie so that won't be a new experience for me. I also have an entire shelf of my pantry devoted to protein powders, so I'm good there. 

As far as the safety, bariatric surgery has come a LONG way over the years, and according to Bariatric Surgery Source, the surgery has a 99.8 percent survival rate. In addition, the 30-day complication rate is 7 percent -- and that includes all complications, be they extremely minor or not. Conversely, the risk of staying obese carries a lot more risk with a host of diseases that are far more common in the obese population. I will take those odds any day.

I initially had chosen VSG, which is short for vertical gastric sleeve surgery. The surgery reduces the size of your stomach around 80 percent, taking it from a football to a banana. But after my docs got a look at my esophagus, the sleeve was off the table for me because it often makes hiatal hernias and reflux worse, and I wasn't going to play fast and loose with possible esophageal cancer. Nope!

So instead of a banana, my stomach with bypass is now an egg. I would have preferred something less extreme, since my BMI was just over the edge of qualifying, but the fact that I could eventually reverse any esophagus damage was more of a deciding factor than anything else.

 


Hey, look - it's me!

So last we talked it was the day before surgery, which occurred last Friday. It's been a week now, I've been home since Sunday and recovery has been OK.

I've learned a lot about coming off morphine, ketone bodies (they SUCK), drinking too much liquid at one time (no bueno) and not drinking enough liquid (also no bueno).

I also learned a new twist on that old fitness meme "Sweat is just your fat crying."

Fat crying

The thing is the size of a paper cut but it's a leaky little sucker. Apparently the fluid looks for the path of least resistance, and right now it's out my belly. 

Super awesome. 

But I felt disgusting before it actually started leaking and now that it is, my belly is feeling less swollen and looking better, too. That same evening that I made my poor, exhausted husband take me to the ER (Valentine's Day, of course!) I also ralphed all the way home. (Thankfully the ER had take-home barf buckets.)

Yesterday I went back to the hospital for a follow-up and learned that the leaking is a fairly common thing, and that the barfing was me trying to power down the protein shakes and broth in one sitting. I was trying so hard to get to 60g of protein I felt like I had to do 20-20-20 at every meal. Well, considering that I have brand new plumbing and a new stomach the size of an egg, that isn't a good idea. So for the past day and a half I've been breaking up the drinks into 4 to 6 ounce portions and doing much better on that. In fact, it's 5 p.m. and I'm nearly at 50g protein -- yay!

I've been pacing back and forth across the house, shooting for a mile a day. That'll gradually increase as I start feeling better (and stop leaking). With the Olympics on, I often cross country ski or speed skate across the house, and the dog thinks I am nuts. 

Now for the freaky fun stuff. 

Since Jan. 18 -- a little less than a month ago -- I'm down nearly 15 pounds. A good portion of that was the pre-op diet but I've been dropping about a pound or so a day this week. There's still some bloating post-surgery (and, of course, the leaking) so once that all settles down I'll be able to get a more accurate picture of my overall weight loss. My body fat percentage has also gone from a ridiculously fluffed-up 52 percent to around 48. 

How do I feel about all this?

via GIPHY

(Nothin' like an MSNBC happy dance.)

 

 

 


Surgery is one week away

For the bariatric surgery of

Yep, that's right. It's happening. All the tests and exams are done (my bloodwork was surprisingly decent!) and insurance has re-approved the surgery.

Why "re-approved"?

I originally chose vertical sleeve gastrectomy, but early on I knew there was a chance I wouldn't be a good candidate because my esophagus is, well ...

via GIPHY

(Actual footage of my throat processing marinara sauce without Prilosec.)

My latest upper endoscopy showed that my hiatal hernia didn't magically close up from the last time we took a peek, and this time my esophagus showed some erosive changes, WHICH IS NOT GOOD. It's called Barrett's esophagus, but mine is in the very early stage with no dysplasia (cell changes). 

My surgeon had said that sleeve surgery can create hiatal hernias over time, and make existing ones worse. 

Well, crap.

There's a very bad thing that can happen if you let your esophagus turn to beef jerky, and basically roux en y bypass surgery can actually reverse the Barrett's. 

Weight loss and GERD relief: Two birds with one stone. Believe me, I've been taking PPIs for a decade, eat super healthy and barely touch alcohol. I just have this stupid hiatal hernia and a flaming pit of acid in my stomach. 

So bypass it is!

Frankly, I'm more concerned with the Barrett's than the size of my ass, so agreeing to change course was a no-brainer for me. My surgeon has done many, many procedures over the years (Cleveland Clinic Florida is a Bariatric Center of Excellence), and he said while the bypass is more involved, recovery is around the same amount of time. 

I'm really looking forward to the improvements in both areas.

Last week, I started the pre-op diet, which was fairly easy -- two protein and veggie meals and one protein shake meal with clear liquids in between. I dropped around 5 pounds. but today was the first day of a liquids-only diet, and damn! I was doing OK with my delightful protein drinks and water until around 4:30 when the hangry polar bear appeared. So I busted open the low-sodium chicken broth, and I swear, it was the best thing ever.

Dinner was probably a little more substantial then I should have eaten -- I found a can of Progresso Organic Tomato Basil Soup in the pantry and stirred in a scoop of unflavored Quest protein powder. That's kind of a smoothie, right? Actually, the soup was a lot higher in sugar than everything I ingested today -- go figure! 

That held me for around an hour and the bear came back, so I just went nuts and ate an Oikos Triple Zero. 

Not perfect but, yeesh, the hunger monster is outta control. 


Bonfire of the diet books

This is something I've been researching for quite some time, and I finally pulled the trigger: I'm getting a gastric sleeve procedure!

{Cue the protein-fortified confetti}

I went to an informational seminar way back in June, decided I didn't want to jump through a bunch of insurance hoops and put the idea on the back burner. I continued to eat kale and quinoa, exercise and drink water ... and GAIN WEIGHT.

After experiencing FOMO while seeing some of my friends get bariatric surgery and do smashingly, I revisited the idea and met with a surgeon at the beginning of this year. I also started working out much more regularly and rejoined Weight Watchers ... and DIDN'T LOSE AN OUNCE.

So I called the insurance coordinator on Thursday and discovered that I was approved for surgery. No long-term counseling, no nothing, she said. Just the usual pre-op exams and a scheduled surgery date sometime next month.

Armies sleevies

NEXT MONTH!

I think it helps that I'm on the low end of a qualifying BMI so I don't have to do any weight loss to get to a "safe" surgery weight. Either that or they took my "body of work" into account and decided that girlfriend has put in the prerequisites and is just ready to GET. THIS. DONE.

... which I am.

I don't smoke, I barely drink, I exercise, I don't eat fast food or candy bars, so all the healthy livin' stuff is in place. 

So why did I title this "Bonfire of the diet books"? Because I've been on or off or researching some plan that'll finally work for ...

OVER 40 YEARS

That's way too long to futz around.

I have sold or given away a giant stack of diet books over the past year but I still hold onto a few for what reason I don't know. The rest of them might go on the barbecue.

But don't get me wrong -- I know that even post-surgery weight loss takes work. It just won't be the head-slamming-against-the-wall kind of work. Over the years my hormones have gotten me to the point where I'm hungry all the time, and I'm not talking "head hunger." I'm talking stomach rumbling real hangry hunger, even minutes after I eat. A gastric sleeve will actually remove a lot of what creates those awful hunger-producing hormones so I can eat a portion of food, feel full and get on with my life.

I'm looking forward to that most of all. 

Another thing I'm looking forward to is getting my hiatal hernia fixed. Apparently a lot of people who get bariatric surgery have hiatal hernias and don't even know it. I KNOW I have one, and I am a world-class belcher. I have done research on this and know that hiatal hernias can be a side effect of gastric sleeves, but since I already have one that is caused by my weight (and probably genetics) I'm pretty sure I'll be able to keep my stomach shut. I don't plan on doing anything to risk having another one.

The snowball starts really rolling next week. I have an upper endoscopy, EKG, ultrasound, chest X-ray, bloodwork and a 4-hour nutrition class scheduled for next week. These guys don't mess around -- and neither do I. 

I said 2018 was going to be the year!