Two Months Out: Ambivalence

Last week I celebrated my eight week postop-aversary. This is usually the point at which we are cleared to eat regular foods and swallow pills whole. For many bariatric patients this is quite a milestone when you are supposed to start feeling “normal” again. I have to say I feel anything but.

My postop life continues to be a roller coaster. I continue to struggle getting my protein in, have no appetite and with the heat and humidity raging in NC, it’s even harder to eat. This has resulted in some days where I have just dragged. I definitely notice that when I do reach my protein goal (80 g/day), or even get really close, I feel MUCH better. But my boss pulled me aside a couple weeks ago and said she was really worried that I might be anemic since I was so pale. Of course I panicked, called my doctor’s office and begged for my labs to be checked. The results? Everything was beautiful. Everything. I’m not anemic or vitamin-deficient or hypothyroid. My labs literally couldn’t be better.

It really is all about the protein, folks.

I had my two month post op last week with the PA, who was wonderful and helpful. I think my surgeon is great at what he does, but he’s not super warm and fuzzy and I needed some affirmation and support (especially after my practice’s triage nurse verbally berated me over the phone a few days prior…I was feeling pretty vulnerable).  My PA reassured me that with SIPS patients, the “magic number” seems to be more like 3 months instead of 2 and that as long as I took care of myself, I should start to feel normal again soon.

The good news? I was cleared for regular food, with the caveat of always getting my protein first. The bad? Advancing my diet has done nothing for my appetite. I’ll try something new, think it tastes decent, and then loathe it with the next portion. Poor Steve is getting stuck with tons of leftovers. The only flavors that seem to really resonate with me are Asian foods and fish…I still love miso soup and now that I can have (some) vegetables, have become enamored with lettuce wraps. Scallops are my new best friend and I could eat white fish all day.

I’m still discovering what foods sit well with my new stomach. Granted, a lot of the foods that felt like lead (i.e. shrimp) haven’t been attempted for a few weeks – when my stomach was still in the healing phase – so I’m trying to convince myself that it’s worth another try. But beef just does not agree with me at all. The “head hungry” side of me is mourning the idea that even if I wanted to, I could no longer eat a cheeseburger because it would make me sick as a dog. But I know that’s actually a good thing.

The two hardest adjustments have been fear and mental exhaustion. I fear trying new foods outside of my home because I don’t know how they will affect me and I don’t like to get sick in public (nor do I have time…more on that later). I may just have to get over this but my anxiety makes it even harder to eat because I’m not very willing to experiment.

The mental exhaustion is in knowing that for the rest of my life, every morsel that I put in my mouth will require focus and mindfulness. Not that mindless binge eating was any healthier, but bariatric surgery does not fix the delicate and tenuous relationship that many of us have had with food for most of our lives. I could see how the constant attention to what we eat could go to the opposite extreme and become pathologic in itself. It will be a delicate balance and I think it will be a different kind of struggle. I have had moments of sincere regret about having this surgery and its consequences for my lifestyle.

Then again, I have lost over 50 pounds from my highest weight and almost 40 pounds since surgery. I can walk without my legs chafing and climb the stairs without having to catch my breath. I look forward to vacations because I can start keeping up with the rest of my family (and even fit in airplane seats)! I enjoy shopping again and rediscovering old clothes in the closet that now fit…or are too big! I feel like I am starting to get my life back.

I may be exhausted and beat up but I did undergo major abdominal surgery and my body is still healing. During my harder moments, I need only to remember how far I have already come.

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