Bariatric Surgery: One Year – Post-Op

Today marks exactly one year since I had bariatric surgery. That decision has led to a lot of changes in my life. I’m in a different place now in comparison to when I was 50kg heavier. Life is so different, and these are my reflections and experiences over the last year. 

When I decided to go through with the surgery, this was a personal choice. Where I come from, if people know that you decided to have surgery, they immediately judge you. They make you feel like you are taking the easy way out. Never once did I ask people what they thought because it was not about them to begin with, but I can assure you, it is not the easy way out. Still, people feel the need to share what they think despite you never asking. Really, you cannot judge anyone who chooses a different path to you because you don’t know their path until you’ve walked in their shoes. Despite not caring what people think of my personal decision which has worked for me by the way, I choose not to share this with people because I don’t like having to justify my actions that do not concern anyone else. It is a private matter and always will be. 

Life was difficult at times immediately after the surgery. It was hard to adjust because your body and mind are adjusting to the changes taking place and it certainly takes your mind a little bit of time to catch up with the physical changes you are going through. Your body doesn’t recognise that it has had surgery so when you feel hunger, you feel like you can eat the same amount as before. Plus, immediately after surgery you are on a liquid diet which is difficult, so your body does not feel satisfied. Once you start the puree stage and solids, it is a whole different game altogether. I didn’t like the liquid stage at all. I just felt hungry all the time, but it was a necessary step. Once I was on the puree and solids phase, I struggled in the beginning because I was trying foods to see how my body reacted and sometimes, it was not pleasant. Having a mini-gastric bypass means that my body cannot absorb fat like it once used to and sometimes, if I ate something without knowing how much fat was in it, my body had its own embarrassing way of telling me that the food was high in fat content. I quickly became aware of this and recognised that I needed to adjust rapidly. I am much better with this but even now, if I eat excessive amounts of junk, my body does not like it and it will tell me. Plus, I don’t like how my body feels when I eat so much junk. I notice a big difference internally, it’s quite hard to explain. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy junk food at times and pizza, fries, chocolate, and cake are still my favourite, but I am more mindful of how much I eat and how often I eat these kinds of food. It’s odd because the surgery doesn’t fix it all and it certainly takes time, but I feel that I am more conscious of the choices I make now and most of the time, I will opt for the healthier option even when I am out. I focus on eating low carb and high protein and now, even a salad can fill me up which I sometimes struggle to believe. It’s a good feeling in all honesty because I was always the kind of person that could never be full on a salad. I will eternally be grateful for this feeling. This is something you could consider a non-scale victory because really, as a former fat person, it was always easier to go for the food that would be high carb and fat because it would be the most filling. 

After the surgery, other changes meant that it became easier to do things I once found to be a chore. See, at the time, I didn’t realise that not only would this surgery change my physical appearance, but it helped changed my mindset too. For example, it became routine to meal-prep. I became conscious of what I was eating and how much I was eating. Every week, I would do a food shop and cook – something that I didn’t make the time for before. It was routine to pre-pack my food for the next day so I knew exactly what I would be eating and often, I would carry my own snacks and I still do this. Slowly, meal-prepping became a habit and now, if I am not prepared, it can make me feel like I am off-balance because I worry about not eating the right things. It really throws me off and I hate not knowing what I will be able to eat. That brings me to the next point about restriction. Of course, your body is restricted from eating as much as you did before and there is no way I would be able to eat the same quantity. I don’t eat excessively because the couple of times I did, it was a very painful and tiring experience. I felt unwell and felt like I was breaking out in sweats. It’s not a nice feeling so you stop yourself from eating excessively. Most of the time throughout the month, I notice that restriction is there, especially when I eat carbs but the only time I notice restriction not to be intense is when my hormones are different, especially before my menstrual cycle. For example, I always have a few days in the month where I eat excessive amounts of chocolate and I just feel like I can eat non-stop. But I keep a close eye on this because I am in control. I have never eaten uncontrollably since the surgery and its odd because the physical changes are the side effect of the mental changes. If there is a particular food I want to eat, I will eat it, but I have changed the way I do. For instance, if I crave a McDonald’s, I will get a Happy Meal and take half of the bun off from the cheeseburger. My mindset is very different when it comes to food now. I eat everything but I just eat everything moderately in comparison to when I was 50kg heavier. The funny thing about this is though, everyone always tells you that if you eat in moderation, the weight will drop off, but the truth is, when you are fat, it takes a lot more food to feel satisfied which is why it becomes challenging to lose weight by just eating less. 

A year later, I have noticed that I am able to eat much more than the early stages which is inevitable. I now have added things in that I did not eat at the start. For instance, sometimes, I will eat rice or bread. It’s great. I enjoy those foods, but I no longer feel that I need them all the time to feel content or that they control me. My meals no longer need to consist of them. The surgery has most certainly changed my eating habits for the better and being more mindful helps a lot. An example of this is that I try to eat at a slower pace, sometimes counting how many times I have chewed my food and so forth. I also sometimes drink water when I am feeling hungry to rule out dehydration for hunger. There are so many changes I have noticed a year later that I feel if I wrote everything, you’d stop reading in the next thirty seconds so I am trying to keep it as short as possible, even though this post is pretty long!

I want to talk about the other things that have been a result of the surgery. I lost weight at a steady pace, never exceeding 2-3kg a week. This was initially. And it was great. Every time I got on the scale, I would see a good loss and I would keep going, looking forward to weighing the following week. And then the weight loss started becoming visible. My clothes were getting looser, and people started asking what I was doing. I never told anyone in my workplace because I know what people are like. They always want the next thing to talk about and my personal life was not a topic of discussion to be had. Of course, it is natural for anyone that loses weight to be talked about because losing weight is one of the hardest things to do, so people always want to know how it is being done. It doesn’t necessarily mean it is a bad thing if people are talking about it. One thing I noticed about losing weight is that people will respond to you differently and suddenly, it’s almost like people who didn’t even know of you feel it is okay to comment in a way that can stop you in your tracks. For example, one colleague outright told me that I look so sexy and beautiful now because I had lost weight. I disagree because there are some super beautiful plus size women out there. Another colleague proceeded to tell me that I should stop losing weight as if my weight loss journey had anything to do with them or that I had asked for their opinion. I get comments like ‘you look skinny now’. But this wasn’t the worst of it. The one that you could say ‘triggered’ me was a conversation I was having with a colleague about general things and my weight loss journey came into it. It started with the basics of them asking what I was doing etc, but it was the thoughts they shared after that bothered me for a few days. The first thing they told me was that they preferred the bigger version of me as if their preference was something I cared about. They then went on to tell me that I thought I was ‘it now’ because I had lost all this weight, and therefore they preferred the fat version of me. See, how I perceived this was that when a person is fat, it makes them vulnerable. The fat person always has a lot more to prove because people can always use their physical appearance against them. Plus, in the back of their minds, they will always be reminded that can always have the fat card used against them and it is completely true. The colleague said that a fat person doesn’t have as much choice and is the reason they are more accepting of things. What this told me was that me losing weight was suddenly about them and how I became unattainable to them because I was the ‘it girl’ now. By the way, I do not perceive myself in this way which I will come on to shortly. You see, for this person, me losing weight meant that I could be more selective now rather than just settling. They also brought up the way I dressed because I dress modest with no body parts showing and it bothered them that they couldn’t ‘check me out’. This was telling me a lot about the person. They also then decided to tell me that people would always make comments before about how ‘she’s pretty but she’s fat’. And it’s that final comment that was confirmation on everything I believed about being fat to be true. And it just made me sad. See, life is difficult for a fat person. It is a constant mental battle between what you want to look like and how you can’t focus if your stomach does not feel satisfied. People find it easy to say that fat people are greedy but that is not always the case. As a former fat person, I can genuinely confirm that you eat more because it takes more food to feel satisfied, not because you are greedy. This is not rocket science! I know this because I always wondered how someone could ever feel full from appetisers or salad but now I understand. It really is just about your stomach size. 

See, I always knew that being fat meant people judge you and can’t accept you as you are. They are not able to look past the fact that you don’t fit the norm. I don’t even think many people realise that they are fat phobic. The funny part is that even when you’ve lost the weight, people will still have something to say. ‘You look skinny now, you’ve lost too much weight, your face looks gaunt’, and my brain just comprehend why people just cannot let you be. I look at my body daily, I know what I want to achieve and my personal choices about my body are not for anyone else to comment on. Why can’t people just mind their business? Someone else’s physical appearance really does not concern anyone else. Me deciding that I wanted to improve my life by losing weight gives no one else the right to say anything. If someone gained weight, I don’t feel the need to point it out to them. They could have an underlying medical condition that has resulted in them starting a medication that makes them gain weight. I have no right to talk about someone else’s personal life and pointing it out. So why do some people take it upon themselves to give their opinion when it is not asked for? Why is it okay for people to comment in a way that can be perceived as negative when someone has lost weight? I didn’t lose weight because I wanted people to point it out to me. Instead, I lost weight for health purposes and how I felt about myself. It was never about anyone else to begin with. It just gets frustrating, especially when you don’t want to have a conversation about it. I do have to admit though, some people are respectful about it and will not mention it or they will comment in a way to say they have noticed that I have changed but that would be the end. I don’t mind so much then because I don’t feel uncomfortable about it. I know people might not necessarily mean it negatively but really, if people spent a bit of time reflecting on their thoughts that they vocalise, they would recognise that some of those thoughts are not okay to share. 

Going back to the ‘it’ girl comment. It Is natural for anyone who loses weight to feel a bit more confident about their physical appearance. Don’t get me wrong, I was always confident even when I was bigger but now, I am much more confident and probably not as paranoid. I guess it’s because I don’t internalise the struggle of being fat. For example, if someone was staring at me before, I would always assume it’s because they were thinking about how fat I was. I know that is not necessarily true but at the same time, it’s how your brain thinks when you feel a certain way about yourself. Everything is taken negatively which is unfortunate. Now, I appear confident because I have added a splash of colour to my wardrobe whereas before, I would purposely wear dark clothing to be unnoticeable. It’s hard not to change because it’s inevitable when your physical appearance does. But it does not mean I think I am the ‘it girl’ now. I never have been and never will be. Nor do I have the desire to be. 

Everyday it’s a challenge. It’s never smooth sailing. I have days where everything is great – my water intake is incredible; I don’t eat a lot and I eat all the right things. But then there are other days where I want to eat cake and chocolate for breakfast, pasta for lunch and pizza as a late-night snack. But such is life. We will always have moments like that. And I have learned to accept those days because in the long run, I know I am in control. I am eternally grateful for all the non-scale victories. For example, sitting on a plane where the seatbelt is looser. Or being able to sit cross-legged. One of the things I really appreciate is not always being the fattest person in the room or being the fat friend. Another non-scale victory is that I am not as self-conscious. It was difficult when I was fat because I felt like people before would look at me in a way where they felt sorry for me due to my physical appearance. When I go somewhere new, the people don’t know that once upon a time, I was 50kg heavier and the concept seems strange at first, but it is such a liberating feeling that I appear to be a regular weight and a regular person. It’s also nice to be able to buy clothes and them fitting well despite me living in oversized t-shirts, leggings, and trainers whenever possible. And although the positives outweigh the negatives, the negatives can sometimes get you down. For example, the loose skin or still looking in the mirror and not being able to see your progress because of the body dysmorphia, which most people who lose an excess amount of weight experience at some point throughout their journey by the way. I personally think this is because your mind takes much longer to catch up with your body and the changes that have occurred. But despite looking at myself sometimes and still not liking what I see, most of the time I do and I am eternally grateful for getting to where I am now because no matter what, I prefer this version of me. I accept the excess skin and know I am much healthier. And who knows, one day in the future, I might be able to have the excess skin removed. For now, I am learning to appreciate how far I have come over the last year and I will not let the excess skin bother me.

Honestly, I could probably write a book on everything that has happened, what I have felt or been through over the last 12 months since having this surgery. Like I said, it has been life-changing in more ways than one. I’ve tried to include a bit of everything in this post to just give an idea of how life changes. I will update after a certain period to share how I am getting on and how life has changed in this aspect once again. Now, you might be here because you’re thinking about getting the surgery or you have recently had it. Honestly, do it if you’re thinking of it because this is your sign. If you’ve just had the surgery recently, then all the best for this new journey you’re embarking on. It’s one hell of a ride. But one thing I can assure you on is that your life will change for the better in more ways than one. I think people are often fearful about the changes, but I feel the positives outweigh the negatives. I know this because I have been through it. Just do your own research and so on, but just know this will not be the easy way out. It’s a mind game. You will have to work for it and there will be some ups and downs along the way. It will be a never-ending journey and you will go through many different emotions on this journey. It is beautiful and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is a part of me and makes me who I am – a healthier, happier & much more content version of myself. 

Until next time, 

The Unveiled Reflector x