Six/Seven-Month Check-In

Time has flown by, and work has been keeping me busy, so I missed my six-month check-in and nearly missed my seventh month. (Okay, I’m four days late, but here it is.)

With the coronavirus lockdown and working from home, my weight has been holding steady. I haven’t gained, but I also haven’t lost. I’m okay with that, though, as this is a lifetime commitment, not a race to the finish line.

I thought for this check-in I would share some of what I’ve learned through this journey.

You get out of it what you put into it.

Weight loss surgery is a big commitment. It’s a complete lifestyle change, as trite as that may sound. But surgery is just the beginning. You have to expect to change your eating habits, exercise habits, and general attitude.

Exercise isn’t necessary for weight loss, but it’s vital to well-being.

If there’s one thing this lockdown has shown, it’s that people get fat and depressed without activity. The less active you are, the more likely you are to eat. But beyond that, exercise–even if it’s just walking–makes you feel good. When I walk regularly, my muscles feel tight and I feel leaner. And I feel good mentally and emotionally. Regular exercise gets your blood flowing and helps your mental health.

You don’t have to listen to your doctor or nutritionist.

It’s up to you how much you want to follow the plan. But your doctor and their team are experts. You don’t have to follow their advice, but you won’t see the same results as if you had.

You’ll probably experience hair loss.

Yes, lots of people experience hair loss after significant, rapid weight loss. For many, it’s significant hair loss, and it can be traumatizing, especially for women. Many people report weight loss about four months after surgery. I’m not sure why, but for some reason I never lost any hair. Perhaps it’s because I take the recommended dosage of biotin, or perhaps it’s because I still get a lot of calories (just not as many as before). For whatever reason, I haven’t lost any hair yet, but I suppose it’s still possible.

The amount of weight you lose will depend on you. Your journey won’t be like anyone else’s.

There are a lot of factors that contribute to the amount of weight you lose and how quickly. But you can’t compare yourself to others. Your journey is unique, and there’s no “right” amount to lose or “right” speed to lose it at.

Your skin will be loose/flabby.

The amount of loose skin will depend on how much you lost and how much elasticity is left. But no one’s body is perfect, and what’s important is how you feel. I still have a long way to go, so the flabbiness isn’t too obvious yet. Plus, I’m 45, so I don’t expect my body to look like it did when I was a teenager. In the end, though, the only people with beautiful bodies are those who’ve had plastic surgery. What’s important to focus on is the additional things you can do once you’ve lost weight. I have flat feet, and at my highest weight, I had trouble walking very far before my feet hurt too bad to continue. Now I can walk a mile or more with no ill effects. It’s an amazing feeling to know that you can do something you couldn’t do before.

Weight loss surgery is expensive.

The cost of the surgery, doctor visits, etc. depends on your insurance–not just the insurance company, but your employer/plan sponsor. The company that provides your benefits (usually your employer) gets to decide what they want to cover, so you can’t assume that just because someone has the same insurance as you, what it covers will be the same.

The requirements before and after surgery vary by insurance company and surgeon.

What foods you can eat, how much weight if any you have to lose before surgery, the waiting period before you’re approved, and a load of other requirements are all determined by your insurance company and your surgeon. That’s why many surgeons offer a consultative appointment to start, so you know what to expect in the months ahead.

Yes, you can stretch out your stomach from overeating.

No, this doesn’t happen overnight. The fact is that after surgery you’ll only be able to eat a small portion of what you ate before. Sometimes just a few bites and you’re full. That’s why a good program will emphasize changing your eating habits so you eat slowly, allowing your brain to catch up with your stomach and tell you when you’re full. When you eat too fast and/or don’t listen to your brain, you can end up with an intensely uncomfortable feeling in your stomach you’d never felt previously. However, this feeling isn’t what will stretch your stomach. If you don’t change your eating habits and continue to eat until you’re over-full, then over time you will stretch out your stomach, and you’ll be able to eat more and more–essentially undoing the effect of your surgery.

Weight loss surgery isn’t the “easy way out.”

Many people–especially those who have never had a struggle with obesity–don’t understand why someone gets fat in the first place. They believe it’s simply a matter of self control, that if you had discipline, you could just lose the weight on your own. But the fact is that many obese people have tried successfully to lose weight and then regained it. Or have attempted a variety of diets and weight loss programs, only to see no significant results. And many obese people have underlying conditions–and genetics–that contribute to weight gain and the inability to lose. The main thing that happens with weight loss surgery is the part of your stomach that makes it nearly impossible to lose weight is removed, allowing you to successfully lose weight in a medically proven way. The effect of the surgery doesn’t last forever, but over time as you’re losing weight, you learn healthy habits and make lifestyle changes that enable you to continue losing weight and maintain a healthy weight.

I don’t need to tell anyone about my surgery, because it’s none of their business.

That’s very true, but it’s helpful for your own mental well-being not to hide it, and there’s no reason why you should hide it. That’s not to say you need to tell everyone you come into contact with, but you should share your journey with those you’re close to. You may be surprised at how nonjudgmental people can be.

It’s cheaper to go to Mexico.

It can be. Weight loss surgery in Mexico tends to cost only about $5000, give or take. So it may be the only solution for someone with no insurance coverage. However, with many insurance plans, once you reach your deductible and maximum out of pocket, the amount the patient owes can be comparable or less than the trip to Mexico. In addition, there’s no pre- and post-operative support from the Mexican doctor. And your surgeon’s team provides much-needed support throughout your journey.

There are a lot of horror stories out there. It’s too risky.

Yes, there are always people out there who have a horror story to tell. While it didn’t work for some people or some side effects were really bad, the surgery is extremely safe, and the side effects are minimal. I posted early in my journey a summary of research I found, which was only a small subset of the research that’s out there. This is also major surgery, like any surgery, so you should do your homework and shop around for an excellent surgeon that offers a comprehensive program–not just surgery.

Is the sleeve or bypass better?

I honestly don’t remember the differences between the sleeve and the bypass. The effects are essentially the same, and the type of surgery contemplated should be discussed in depth with your surgeon to decide which one is right for you. I don’t even recall if there were more side effects associated with the bypass, but for some reason my surgeon and I both decided the sleeve was the right choice for me.

You have to give up all your favorite foods.

No, you don’t. Everything in moderation. I have a friend who, when dining out, orders whatever she wants and has a taste of all of it. Then she boxes up the rest and takes it home for leftovers. If you have “trigger foods” that you can’t control yourself with or other foods that just don’t make you feel good, then keep those foods out of your house. Stick to your program and focus on the healthy foods that are best for you to eat. But every once in a while, you can treat yourself to one of those foods you miss. In moderation.

Significant weight loss can affect your marriage/relationship.

Many relationships end after one of the partners has weight loss surgery. Your partner has to be fully on board with your decision and fully support you, or you are likely to head in different directions. Even if you are completely on the same page in the beginning, you can grow apart without an effort to work together and communicate. In addition to just life in general and the changes that happen over time, there are significant changes that happen with weight loss. Your mental health, physical health, and emotional well-being will change, which is why many people choose to see a counselor or therapist throughout their journey to help them deal with these changes. And these changes can affect your partner too, awakening strong feelings that they need to deal with. Communication is key to not lose touch with your relationship.

Is it worth it?

Yes.