I had an interesting thought pop into my head about a week and a half ago as I was transitioning from the full liquid diet to soft foods. Actually, it wasn’t as much interesting as it was bat shit crazy…but you be the judge.
I was in the kitchen trying to find something appetizing and protein filled to eat. This is a challenge for me for several reasons, but mainly because my sleeve only allows me to eat ¼ cup of food at a time. That’s about an ounce of ground beef…which is about 7 grams of protein. When your target is 80 grams of protein a day, you can see where that might be a problem when you can only eat 7 grams every few hours and you’re expected to get down at least 64 ounces of water as well. And you’re on a limited diet. And you can’t drink anything 10 minutes before eating or 30 minutes afterwards. Seriously, I’m constantly nibbling on food or guzzling water.
So there I was, standing in front of the open refrigerator, cursing the taco meat that I was long tired of…passing over the cottage cheese that was now threatening my upchuck reflex…realizing that I hadn’t had near enough water for the day…when I heard the voice in my head say, “I’m so tired of paying attention to myself…GEEZ!!!”
I’m so tired of paying attention to myself. And I was. I was tired of focusing on what was going into my mouth. Tired of nagging myself to hydrate my body with water. Tired of tracking my food. It would be much easier (and totally my old habit) to conveniently decide that I need a break right now…and order pizza for dinner instead of cooking. I’d plop on the couch and just relax with my pizza. It would feel good to loosen the rules and splurge. That’s what is familiar and self-loving to me: breaking my promise to myself by eating crap on the couch. How confused my body must be when it comes to the insanity that comes from my brain.
And now what have I done? I’ve gone and had 85% of my stomach surgically removed so that I’m unable to overeat. In doing so, I had to jump through some pretty strenuous nutritional hoops including a long stint of liquids only. This, of course, resulted in my body freaking out entirely. I’ve run the gamut from untrustworthy farts to feeling like I needed a dynamite loaded suppository to get my system unblocked. (You’re welcome for the overshare, by the way.) So yeah…my body has to be wondering what on Earth I think I’m doing to myself. Eventually things will calm down and I’ll be left with a new normal.
I can’t just decide to let go for a while and have some pizza…or grab a bagel and cream cheese. I can’t have a bad day and grab a pint of ice cream. I physically can’t do it unless I want to make myself sick…or worse. But that was me loving myself with food (which isn’t very loving when you consider the negative results that come from such behavior). I can’t do that anymore. I have surgically stopped myself from being able to love myself in the only way I’ve ever really known. What’s more, I’ve surgically made it necessary for me to toe the eff’in line.
If I don’t get the right nutrition, I don’t heal. I don’t lose weight. I don’t do much at all, actually, because I don’t have the energy to do it. I no longer live in a world obsessed with calories. My world is protein. My world is tracking my water and protein intake to make sure I don’t end up sick, or worse…in the hospital. In these first weeks after surgery, I can suffer dehydration and malnutrition if I don’t pay attention to myself. I can also cause a leak in my sleeve, which would require me to go back to liquids until it heals, a fate almost worse than death to me at this point.
This is the hand of tough love that I dealt myself when I decided to opt for gastric sleeve surgery. I was fully aware that I was basically tough loving myself into submission. I’m talking about it today because I see countless patients lamenting these days as they go through the recovery process and it irks me somehow more than the decision I made that got me to this point of my journey. (And yes, my decision does irk me at times. It would feel good, although only briefly, to plop on the couch with that piece of pizza and just let loose…but we all know where that’s gotten me, don’t we? It’s still the closest thing to comfort and peace I’ve known in the last four weeks.)
I haven’t found a new way to love myself yet. I haven’t learned what that is. I don’t know what it looks like. I only know about choking down protein shakes…and that doesn’t feel very positive or loving. I’ll get there, it’s just going to take time. I am grateful, however, that I’m not like a lot of the folks I see online right now…also in their third week after surgery and lamenting on Facebook that “I just want a sandwich!!!!”
Jesus. I just want a buffalo wing, sweetie, but I’m not going to end up in the hospital because I can’t suck it up. Big picture. Hello!
I honestly don’t know where the strength came to make the decision that I did, but I’m glad I did. As I write this, I’m trying to choke down another protein shake. It’s difficult. It’s gross. It’s making me feel queasy. Part of me would much rather be mowing through something unhealthy. But I can’t. Not unless I want to cause myself some major pain and possibly start an infection or leak.
It sounds terrible, but before surgery the risk was “only” that I would gain a little weight. That should have been enough to stop me, but that’s never been the case. I’ve never cared more about myself than the treat I was putting in my mouth. But now? Fear of pain. Fear of infection. Fear of a leak. Fear of going back in the hospital. That’s what keeps me in line. And if that’s how I have to do it, that’s how I’m going to do it. This is Momma talking to the screaming toddler inside my head: sit in your time out until you can behave.
This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. Even the decision was hard to make, not just because I’d spent much of my life arguing that any kind of weight loss surgery was just bat shit crazy, but because I knew that it would rip me from the arms of the thing that’s loved me unconditionally my whole life: food. There are folks who say that surgery is taking the easy road…and that just makes me laugh. There is nothing easy about this.
I was walking through the office today and one of my co-workers, who’s been very supportive, stopped me and asked how much weight I’ve lost so far. 32 pounds, I told her. She frowned and said “32 pounds…that was what you said last week, though.” So many people expect me to say 32 one week and then 50 the next. The truth is that it’s not as quick as it is consistent. I always get to about 40 pounds and then I call for pizza and “relax” for a bit and end up blowing all my hard work out of the water. Now that I can’t call for pizza, I expect to see some real results…but it won’t be lightning fast.
Another factor in this equation is that protein I mentioned earlier. My body needs 80 grams of protein a day in order to do what it needs to do. I’m barely getting in 50 right now. I’m struggling…and the result is that the scale isn’t budging, my scars are healing slowly, and every day it continues is another day I risk significant hair loss. Finding ways to choke more protein down is the biggest challenge I’ve faced so far after surgery. I thought the Week One Post Op wet farts were the worst…but they weren’t (and thank God that’s over with!).
I fully plan to come back and talk about Week One Post Op and catch y’all up on life after surgery, but this is something I needed to talk about now…because it’s what I’m going through now. As I sit at my laptop, choking down my protein shake, this is what wants to come out. This whole process is about me learning how to get out of my own way. Although it’s harder than I thought it would be in ways I didn’t fully expect, it’s totally worth it.