So I arrived home after 11 days in hospital, sore and vey slow moving. You don't realize how much you use your stomach muscles until they've been cut in half and are essentially useless. I had taken leave from work for 6 weeks to recuperate. A long time but necessary for sure. Since I was still only eating pureed foods, my mother decided that it was best to just buy baby food, or rather Junior foods. Made sense since it comes in different entrees and I could get my fruits and veggies too. I'll admit it took a while to get my head wrapped around the fact that I was eating baby food again. I assumed it would taste bland or worse, horrible. But I was assured it was fine and it was much easier than grinding up meals in the blender. Plus, it came in the right size for my newly reduced stomach.
Easter was right around the corner and mom had cooked a nice pot roast. Too bad I was still on Junior foods at the time. Solution? In the blender it went. A small piece of roast beef with gravy, then some carrots, the mashed potatoes were already, well, mashed. But this was where I learned my first lesson about portion control in my new reality. I had probably only eaten half of my dinner when I suddenly became nauseous. Very nauseous. I ran to the bathroom and vomited up my dinner. Now this was scary because the doctor had told me that I had to go easy on the stomach for the next month for fear of popping my staples and dying. Vomited and heaving into the toilet put a lot of strain on my stomach and I feared I was going to kill myself inadvertantly. Mom called the doctor's office in a panic but after things settled down, I was okay. Sore, but okay.
I didn't realize it at the time, but the lesson here wasn't that I had to only watch the amounts I ate but that certain foods were no longer going to be digestable. I learned this lesson again a couple of months later when I went out for a philly cheesesteak. I had only had a couple of bites when the thing came back on me, violently. I still wasn't sure what was happening as I had been told that i couldn't eat more than a cup of food at a time and a couple of bites from a hoagie certainly isn't going to be enough to overfill me. Over time, I figured it out. Foods that were gooey like melted cheese, peanut butter, jams and BBQ sauce gummed up the plumbing down there. Other foods that were chewy like steak, roast beef, pork chops, different types of breads and buns, ribs, etc. were also adept at clogging things up forcing me to expel it. Other more denser foods like potatoes took up too much room in my stomach again forcing me to vomit. For a while it seemed like everything was either too gooey, too chewy or too dense for me to digest. The problem was that the foods were getting to the small dollar sized opening of my new smaller stomach, which had been created for it since the food needed to bypass my normal stomach and was getting stuck. Once that happened, I had to expel it and of course, when you vomit, not only does the obstruction come up but so does the contents of your stomach.
This would explain why after this happened, I would continue eating. I had gotten rid of the food I had previously eaten so I was essentially hungry again. My family never understood this. I tried to keep my vomiting secret but you can only hide something like that for so long before everyone knows. So not only could I no longer eat a normal amount of food like everyone else, I couldn't eat certain foods. I hadn't been told this and I was getting bitter. To solve the pizza problem, I'd let it cool down enough for the cheese to solidify. If it went down as a solid, I would be okay. As for the meats, there was nothing I could do. Steak, ribs, roast beef, pork chops were out. When I was confronted with the situation, say after being invited to dinner somewhere, I would attempt to eat it but ended up in the bathroom puking my guts out...quietly of course. Eventually I gave up and started not accepting dinner invitation unless I had to.
Sure the weight started coming off, it had to. Over the course of a few months, I lost about a hundred pounds. Sure I looked better but I still had another hundred to lose so I was still pretty fat. But this is where my inner fat guy began to sabotage me. Once I hit about 280lbs, I stopped losing. I had found a way around the surgery, a way to eat and satisfy that crazy need to feed my face. The solution? Junk food. Or more specifically, chips and cheezies, especially the latter. Chips were potatoes so they would fill me up faster. But cheezies were like crispy pieces of air. They were light and broke down easily with chewing. I could put away a bag of them no problem. I got used to the vomiting and would order a pizza, a small one mind you, but way more than I should have been able to eat. Sure I'd throw up some of it, but I'd come back and finish it. I don't know how much of the pizza I'd actually keep down, but it must have been enough to stop my weight loss. I did this with everything I ate: burgers, pasta meals, chinese, home made meals, whatever. The only thing I didn't eat were the foods I knew wouldn't go down no matter what like steak. At least with pizza, once the cheese was solid, I could eat it.
Another unfortunate side effect of this surgery and my habits was that all of the vomiting was weakening the enamel on my teeth. When I did go back to the dentist a few years later, I had 14 cavities and a noticeable amount of enamel missing from my teeth. After explaining how this happened, he said that bulimics often suffer from this problem. The stomach acids simply eat away at the enamel leaving your teeth vulnerable.
Another side effect was that I developed gallstones a few months after the surgery. After suffering several gallstone attacks over a couple of months and the doctors not being able to figure it out, I went for an ultrasound and there they found the problem. My surgeon who was going to be taking care of this problem for me, actually laughed when he told me. "What is the big joke?" I thought to myself as he booked me in for the removal of my gall bladder. Turns out, when you lose a large amount of weight quickily, it upsets you body chemistry and gallstones are quite common. On January 2, ten months after my bypass surgery, I had my gall bladder removed.
Now most of this could have been avoided I'm sure with some therapy. Some preparation and education. Maybe a psychological assessment to see if I was going to be able to handle all of these life style changes. I mean, if it was that easy to just eat smaller portions and give up certain foods, I wouldn't have needed the surgery. Some people just aren't good candidates for this type of surgery. You really need to wrap your head around the limitations set by this procedure. Nobody told me about the vomiting, the inability to eat certain foods, the possibility of returning to the hospital within a year to have my gall bladder removed. Not to mention the shame I felt about my vomiting, not feeling comfortable accepting dinner invites and then when I did, having troubles digesting the meal. It made it hard when dating too. I'd go to dinner with someone and it would take a long time to find something on the menu I felt I could digest, then only eating part of it and asking for a doggie bag. More times than not, I had to explain that I only ate small amounts without giving up my secret. People didn't need to know my business and what my life was like. It was hard.
After a few years, I talked to my family doctor and explained how I felt, that I was bitter and felt lied to. That this wasn't what I signed up for. He wouldn't reverse it. He felt I would just blow up again and that I had to learn to eat within my limits and deal. Harsh.
In 2000, the switch finally went on and I went on a diet and exercise program designed to lose that pesky last 100lbs I had been carrying around forever. This story I'll leave for another post, but after having lost it, in 2003 I asked for a tummy tuck. I had a flabby middle that wouldn't shrink, the skin was simply stretched too much. In May, I had the surgery. The surgeon was the only plastic surgeon in the city and he was a few months from retirement. He had a reputation for leaving bad scars and not completely solving issues afterwards. My sister had him for a growth on her leg and her surgery was less than impressive. Same with others I heard, seemed this surgeon wasn't all that great. But he was the only game in town and I wanted it done. As a add on, I asked that he lipo my breasts since I had always had man boobs and they were quite distressing.
Afterwards, I looked like I had a string tied around my hips and pelvic area. It didn't hang as much, in fact it looked like a muffin top. The roll was diminished but it was still there. I expected a flat tummy or at least a flatter one. I still had a soft roll around my waist and my man boobs were still there. Sure he sucked the fat out but they were still sticking out. Time, he said, would solve that. It never did. So in 13 years, I had endured a gastric bypass surgery and all the side effects, removal of my gall bladder, loss of enamel on my teeth resulting in many cavities, shame and embarrassment, and a semi-successful tummy tuck. What else could happen? Oh it gets better.
The conclusion in part 4.....