Ten months out on my bariatric journey and I have left 105 pounds along the trail. It's been as startling and revealing as Cheryl Strayed 's "Wild" trek -- except I've gotten to keep all my toenails and at least 10 pounds of excess skin.
There is no "normal" to go back to and no place to post a finish line. Reaching my goal is like playing "King of the Hill." I only get to stay in this lofty place if I'm willing keep taking on all daily challenges to the position. Failure to continue to count every bite and make every bite count will knock me on my ass (just like Lucille Ferraccio used to do in the old neighborhood).
I had a Vertical Gastric Sleeve (removing two-thirds of my stomach) in March 2014. In the ensuing months my sleeve went from alien intruder to an able ally. I couldn't have gotten here without it.
There is no universal experience for VGS patients, I can only address what my sleeve did -- and didn't -- do for me.
- It did not restrict the quantity of high-calorie foods I could eat. It would have no objection whatsoever to nearly any quantity of ice cream, potato chips, rich beverages and other "slider" food that move right through the restricted space to rest in brand-new, fatty pillows.
- It never said no to rich, creamy sauces or fat-laden cheeses - that was my job. It still wants pizza. So do I. I really miss pizza.
- It didn't care about caloric, fat or carb counts. It left all the math to me. I'm still at 1000 calories, 80 grams of protein and minimal carbs daily. If I wander, so does the scale.
- It didn't kill hunger. Some VGS patients boast about feeling full quickly and easily -- having to force themselves to get their daily caloric requirements. I was never one of them. Even at its reduced size, my stomach will growl, grumble and beg for food. The surgery is said to reduce the hormones that create the sensation of hunger. Mine stayed.
- It did force me to dramatically change what, when and how I eat in order to properly recover from a major surgery.
- It will reward me with a full feeling if I eat the dense proteins that are the key to making it all work.
- It will make me sneeze, feel uncomfortable and even toss my lunch if I eat too much of any dense food.
- It did force to me to make everything I put in my mouth a clear and conscious choice.
- It has convinced me that fried foods just aren't worth it. It's not crazy about white foods (breads pasta, rice ) but I'm still working on that one.
- It functions really well if I help it out with regular exercise... and punishes me at the scale if I skip a few days.
- It required me to honestly look at not only what I eat, but why I ate like I did.
If I had it to do again, I would make the exact same choice. Yes, I had lost at least 400 pounds "on my own" over the years, but they were in easily disposable bundles of 10-20-30 or 40 pounds and were never too long gone.
The sleeve got me to a place that's worth fighting to keep.
I took a full-body "before " picture in tights and a sports bra and am not quite ready to do the "after" just yet. I do know that the head shots for my newspaper column, taken one year apart in the same place with the same perpetual bad hair day and lack of makeup, show a difference.
But no camera can show the real change.