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 

 

Time

Time – A paradox really. We have so much time yet, we don’t have enough of it. The one thing that can never come back or money can buy, no matter how rich you are! Time is the one thing I feel I do not have enough of. I feel that it is constantly running away from me, and I so desperately wish it would slow down. Every passing moment, time is only leading me to that final destination of death. There’s this overwhelming sense of sadness that I am unable to express in words. It’s the one feeling that is so inexplainable and I struggle to articulate. I talk about time because it has taken me a long time to coherently write this post, funnily enough, because I couldn’t formulate my thoughts on this topic and felt I didn’t have time to write for my blog – the paradox.

Time doesn’t feel significant when you’re in the routine of life. I feel that day to day, our routines do not allow us to reflect on how significant of a topic time is. We only focus on the immediate tasks at hand that need to be completed. I am only able to think about time the minute I stop and take a few moments to myself. Time is the one thing that comes to the forefront often. For me, I feel that there is never enough time to do everything I aspire to do. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t do the things I feel so passionately about. It’s just that I feel I don’t have ENOUGH time to do the things I feel so passionately about. 

Time is a complexity because despite having the same twenty-four hours in a day as everybody else, I feel that so many of us fail to complete things that relate to our greater purpose in life. I am unable to determine what it is about time that makes me feel like it is escaping me. Time feels like a melancholy because I feel that as I get older, I realise just how quickly it is passing me by, and there is this sense of overwhelming sadness about how precious and sacred time really is. In the blink of an eye, you get to an age where you spend a lot of time reminiscing about life. Maybe this is the reason that elderly people smile when they look at young people because they understand the complexity of time. This is what elderly people must feel like when it comes to reminiscing on the past, realising that life has passed them by so quickly. Sometimes I wonder if I will look back and wonder whether I did enough with my time. Will I feel that my life had meaning and purpose and I fulfilled that purpose?

As humans, I feel that we are constantly chasing time away, rather than just being present and enjoying every moment of our lives. We are always looking forward to the next thing that will happen, and I can admit I am guilty of this. I appreciate that enjoying every moment of our lives is impossible because that is not what humans are designed to do (we wouldn’t know what enjoyment was if we never felt anything else) – but if you think of it in the context of how one day, these moments where we wanted time to pass quickly for whatever reason, is often the time we so desperately want back, it is this thought that immediately slows me down. 

The sad truth is that time escapes us all. It’s just that most people don’t think deep enough about what their time means. I started thinking so deeply about time and it has taken me quite some time to come up with thoughts on how this subject makes me feel. I write this with overwhelming feelings – some feelings of happiness that I appreciate time so much and am self-aware about how this topic impacts me to an extent. Some feelings of sadness that are difficult to express. More often than not, we spend our time not living in the present. Living in the present is so important to really make the most of all we have today. I forgot that all the time I was worrying about how little time I have, I was living in anxiety. I complained to my friends about never having enough time and I recognise now, that I started feeling this way because I wasn’t doing enough of what I loved doing – like writing, learning, reading, growing, and focusing on self-development. I wanted more time in the day and started wishing that each day could be forty-eight hours or that I didn’t need to sleep so I could have more time. Work took over my life and I wasn’t taking care of myself because I would spend all my time focused on just work. So many of us are guilty of this and we don’t even realise it is what causes our misery. 

The anxiety was taking over my life and then one day, I had an epiphany! The epiphany was that you can never have enough time no matter what you do because there is so much we want to do with our time. I worked on accepting this and found a great podcast by Jay Shetty (On Purpose), which changed my mindset. He mentions that time is something we cannot control. I knew this all along, but I needed to hear this from someone else to recognise that I am not alone in how I feel about the topic of time. He also mentioned that time is something we must create. I had this sudden awakening that although I am not in control of time, I am however, in control of how I use that time and I was the only one that could create the time to do the things I wanted to do.

I am at the start of this journey of creating time for the things I love doing, despite being so busy. It’s a choice we make on how we spend our time, so I made choices. I started waking up one hour earlier than usual because the morning is when I am the most productive. Each day of the week, I focus on a task I love doing and do that for the first hour before I do anything else. I’ve only just started doing this recently, but I have already noticed a difference. Some of those things include reading, reflective writing, online courses, listening to a podcast or audiobook and making notes, writing a gratitude list and of course, focusing on blog writing. In such a short space of time and creating a little time for what I want to be doing, I have noticed that my day is so much more productive, and I feel so much more energetic and positive. 

Looking back now, it all seemed so simple. All I needed to do was create the time. But as humans, I’m sure we can all appreciate that when there is this overwhelming sense of sadness that clouds our mind, it can be hard to see clearly. Don’t get me wrong – I still feel a little sadness when I think about time. But I just don’t feel that I am wasting as much anymore because I am on the road to figuring out what time means for me, spending time on the things I love and enjoying the wonder of where this journey of time will take me. 

Until next time. 

Yours, 

The Unveiled Reflector x 

Outgrowing Friendships

I never thought we could outgrow friendships until I outgrew one not that long ago. It’s funny, isn’t it? We make friends and sometimes we think friendships will last a lifetime. You meet someone and you think this is my person that will go through life with me. Sometimes you make friends in the most random ways and don’t imagine you would become so close but then slowly, one challenge in your friendship turns into another and then suddenly, the friendship starts deteriorating. I had a friendship like this of eleven years. We were inseparable and we grew together a lot. But things started to change the moment a man entered her life. For me, I feel that friendships shouldn’t change just because one person gets into a relationship. I feel that when the rose-tinted glasses are on, some people don’t value their friends as much anymore. However, at some point when you get complacent in your relationship and the rose-tinted glasses come off, you start missing your friends and by this point, it could be too late. 

I made a friend in my first year of university. I had moved away from home so friends were of a lot of significance whilst living away. In the first week, I was the only one in my accommodation. I’d been away to a different city to meet with some friends and whilst I was away, a girl moved in next door. I introduced myself and that was the end of the conversation. In the first semester, because we lived together, we ended up spending some time together and after bonding over some music we both liked, we realised we had a lot more in common than we initially thought. During our first-year at university, our friendship slowly grew from strength to strength, and we just worked. We shared a lot of things about our lives and started hanging out with each other all the time. Eventually, our circle of friends became the same and we did everything together. We were always there for each other, but the thing I liked most about our friendship was that we could be our authentic selves, yet it never affected our friendship. Even after we left university, we stayed the best of friends. We would go to family events our families had and we would go to each other’s houses regularly. We would sleep over and travel together. We went on quite a few holidays and we would have the best time. There was just this unspoken level of understanding that we had. We were from similar cultures, so this strengthened our friendship when we discussed issues relating to our culture. Our friendship was this solid for eight years. Meeting at the age of eighteen, you can only imagine how much we went through together, with all the changes a young adult goes through around that age. We grew as people and there was this unbreakable bond, until it slowly started breaking.

In 2017, our friendship started to change when she met a man who didn’t like me. This was her first serious relationship and despite always saying that no man would ever be able to get in-between our friendship, one did. We were on holiday at the time in Dubai (not knowing it would be our final holiday) and had an argument about something which I guess marked the beginning of the end. Things were not okay for the rest of the holiday, but we made it through and got home. After that, there was this distance between us, but I valued our friendship so dearly that it didn’t make sense that we had fallen out and felt things were unfixable. I always like to fix things because I am one of those people that doesn’t feel content if things aren’t right, especially with someone who has been a significant part of my life for a long time. We eventually made up after me turning up to her house and wanting to talk through things. Her boyfriend at the time still didn’t like me but that was okay as long as I had my best friend. However, from then on, it was never the same. 

See, the thing is, sometimes, when a friend gets a partner, their priorities change which is completely natural and I can understand that. However, no matter happened, her boyfriend decided that he just didn’t like me even though I tried to make an effort with him. They eventually got married in 2018 but we both were busy with our lives, so it wasn’t the way it used to be and we were both in different places. I don’t think that is a good enough reason for such a solid friendship to change so drastically, but I appreciate that if your partner doesn’t like one of your friends, your natural instinct is to be a little distant because you don’t want to upset them. This is not me agreeing whether that is right or wrong but just outlining that I can understand why this happens. As we continued with our lives, again we grew distant, and months would go by where we would no longer make the same effort with each other. In late 2018, I lost a college best friend and wanted some support from whom I thought would be able to provide that for me. I had never seen death so closely and it had impacted me in more ways than one. However, my ‘best friend’ just didn’t know how to be there for me so another nine months went by and when we spoke this time, I asked to meet up so I could tell her that I had a job offer and was moving abroad. I didn’t want to move abroad with our friendship being so frosty. Despite everything that had happened, I still had faith that our friendship could still make it through any difficulty we went through. This was in mid 2019 and we again, talked about our differences and what was going wrong in our friendship. We talked about how this could be fixed which was great! We were back to being semi-normal and were making more of a conscious effort with each other. At the start of 2020, we had a disagreement over something but this time, my best friend was quite rude and honestly, it just wasn’t what I needed. I think I was just fed up by this point of things always seeming to go wrong and me always being the one to initiate repairing the damage. A few months later, she tried to contact me to tell me about her sister having a baby and I just felt like I didn’t care anymore, especially because the real issue had been brushed under the carpet. It was a brief conversation, and we didn’t speak after that for months until I got a birthday message. I replied to her message but when her birthday came a couple of months later, I knew that not contacting her would mark the end of this friendship completely. And that is exactly what happened because I made that decision of ending a friendship I didn’t think would ever end. Since October 2020, we have not spoken and honestly, I am content with that.

There are many reasons I feel content with my decision, but I felt like it got to a point in our friendship where I started wondering why every time something went wrong, it was always me that was making the first move to fix things. I think I am at that point in my life where I have realised that sometimes, you can’t always be the one to fix things, regardless of whatever trauma someone has been through in their lives. I realise that at times, you have to let things just fizzle out because sometimes, things have an expiry date. It can never be justified that one person in any kind of relationship is always the one doing the emotional work just because the other person has a certain type of mentality. One thing I learned towards the end of our friendship was that maybe my best friend had a slight ego problem which is why she could never be the one to initiate fixing things when they went wrong, no matter how she felt deep down. Maybe it is also one of the reasons that things used to get brushed under the carpet unless I was the one wanting to communicate about them.

I personally think that the decision to not make contact with her on her birthday was because I had made peace with how the friendship turned out. I felt that regardless of how much we tried to make things right, they would never be the same. It wasn’t always an easy journey for me. Since 2017, I was deeply affected by how our friendship had turned out because I talked about it a lot with those closest to me. The way the friendship turned out bothered me. I mean, of course it bothered me because if it didn’t, I wouldn’t have talked about it so much. I also think that in the process of talking about it so much, I had already mourned the loss of the friendship which is why I was very content with the friendship fading away. It is completely normal to mourn a friendship because when a friend has been a huge part of your life, you feel the loss when things are no longer the same. I feel everything so deeply so the fact that this friendship had turned out the way I had never imagined, really did break my heart.

Reflecting on the friendship we had, I now believe that sometimes, people only come into your lives for a short period of time to teach you things or because that is exactly what you need at that point in your life. I am not sad anymore because I have made peace with the fact that maybe throughout our twenties, we needed each other for whatever we went through. We were destined to grow as much as we did together before we both progressed onto separate chapters in our lives. I always remind myself that not everyone that comes into my life is supposed to stay and I feel that is how I have made peace with the fact that even when we don’t ever want someone to leave our lives, sometimes people do and we have no choice but to accept this bitter truth. It does however, get easier as time goes on.

Now, my ex-best friend is married, and she has welcomed a child into the world which is wonderful. There are no hard feelings from my side. I feel we have both moved on with our lives and I am personally very content with where I currently am. I don’t think I would ever want to fix this friendship anymore or try to attempt to go back to how it used to be because that is impossible. Plus, I feel too much has happened in the interim period for it to go back to how it was once upon a time. Instead, I cherish the memories we made, and I will always wish her the best. It’s just, I choose not to be a part of her life anymore because too much has happened for me to make that effort. And that is how I know I have outgrown the friendship.

Until next time, 

Yours, 

The Unveiled Reflector x