Someone asked me recently how I stay motivated and focused and asked that I write a post about it. This has turned into quite a long post, so I am breaking it up into two parts. This first part, I am going to write about some of the challenges and difficulties I have faced over the past year.
I have to admit that staying motivated and focused is not easy, even with the surgery helping me out. In some ways, my weight loss journey has been very easy. Because I cannot eat a lot, thanks the gastric by-pass surgery, the pounds have come off seemingly effortlessly. I cannot say completely effortlessly, because this whole process has had its own difficulties, but for the most part, losing the pounds, for the first time in my life, has been simple. Granted, since March, the weight loss has slowed down to a snail’s pace, and I have to be more vigilant than ever, but it’s still coming off.
Nonetheless, I have had some real struggles that are sometimes difficult to deal with. Some of them were kind of unexpected, some of them the surgeon’s office prepared me for. All of them have had their toll on my progress in one way or another.
- Dumping Syndrome – DS comes in many forms. One of the forms I have struggled with is instant diarrhea. I eat something my body cannot handle, and I cannot get to the bathroom quickly enough. I have had a few really embarrassing events. One, I was on a road trip and bought chicken wings at a gas station (I know you don’t have to tell me!) and I had to pull over a few exits later in hopes that I would make it to the bathroom in time. I was not quite in the bathroom inside the McDonald’s when it started. Fortunately, it wasn’t so bad that it was immediately noticeable to those around me and the bathroom was empty, thank goodness. Took forever to clean myself up though. And it was, of course, very humiliating.
- Constipation – It’s not so bad anymore. There were a few months early on where I felt that I had it 3-4 times a week, but it’s much better now. Whenever I am overly stressed, it does return. It is very painful and can take a couple of days to clear up no matter how much medication I take.
- Pain – The first six months after the surgery were difficult as far as pain goes. Since then, I often have to deal with pain when I’m constipated. Sometimes, I experience stomach pain after I eat, but not often.
- Re-learning how to eat – I have drastically changed my diet. High protein foods and vegetables. Some of the changes have been very good – I can now have milk products and tomatoes. Others have been difficult. No junk foods, fried foods, and little to no bread. Eating three meals a day and two – three snacks per day is new as well. I have had to eat even when I’m not really hungry, just to stay on schedule. With the small stomach, that is much harder than it used to be pre-surgery.
- Discovering I still have compulsive eating issues – It is true. I do. I fight against them every day. I still crave all the wrong things. Not all of the time, mind you, but sometimes the urge to over indulge is there. Of course, when I have over indulged, there have been consequences. (See dumping syndrome)
- Nausea – Yeah I get that sometimes. It happened the other night when I was on the bus home. I started feeling hot and sweaty and thought I was going to hurl right there on the bus. I didn’t fortunately, but to be safe, I got off a stop early and sat at the bus station for a minute until I felt better and then I walked up the hill to my place. I don’t know why this happens, but it does sometimes.
- Excess skin – Yes, I have some. I don’t like it, but it’s there. It is unattractive and I do what I can to cover it up. That said, however, I would rather deal with excess skin than 127 pounds of excess fat. So, as unpleasant as it is, I’ll take it.
- Fluctuating appetite – I don’t always feel hungry and I have sometimes had to force myself to eat or take my protein supplements (either drinking or yogurt) when I was not really hungry. The doctor put me on a plan – breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner – and they want me to follow it whether I’m hungry or not. When I do get hungry, and I skip any part of the plan, I feel it. In addition to tummy hunger, I feel dizzy and out of sorts. It can really be awful.
- Return of my appetite and feeling hungry – Yes, I can feel hunger. Some people I know who have had the surgery have never had their hunger return. Mine has. It’s not the same as it was before the surgery, but it is there. I do not feel absolutely ravenous, but I do start to feel hungry at meal times, the times I’ve trained my body to expect some nutrients. I worry about this. I am afraid that feeling hungry will cause me to make bad food choices, and I have a couple of times. I have paid for those choices, which helps keep me on track. So, I have to stay ever vigilant that I make the right food choices.
- Slow weight loss – I would say that since about March, my weight loss has slowed down to a snail’s pace compared to what it was the first 6 months post surgery. It has been daunting to remain positive and hopeful when I’m losing 1-2 pounds every couple of weeks or even months instead of 3-5 pounds a week. I lost 80 pounds just in the first 4 months after the surgery. I have been tracking my weight loss on My Fitness Pal, and according to them, I have lost 67 pounds since January and 40 pounds since March. That’s pretty good progress in anyone’s book. So, while the weight loss has been slow, it has also been steadily moving down. You know what they say, slow and steady wins the race!
- Hair Loss – One of the side effects of bariatric surgery is hair loss due to lack of protein and mal-absorption of nutrients. My hair loss started in March or April. It freaked me out. I immediately started increasing my protein intake, using biotin shampoo and conditioner, putting a biotin cream on my hair at night. I increased my vitamins. I was determined not to lose all of my hair. I did lose a lot. I did not develop any bald spots, thankfully, but people who know me noticed how thin my hair was getting. It is growing back. Every time I go to the hair dresser for a trim, they show me my “new growth” underneath all of my old hair. So, there is some good news. But I did fret quite a bit every time I combed my hair and pulled out handfuls of hair.
- Dealing with people who do not understand – I don’t run into this often, but some of the people who are least understanding, are some of the people closest to me. This has really surprised me. I do not eat a lot with each meal or snack, but I sometimes feel that I eat constantly. This is by design, I think, to make sure I get enough nutrients, train me to eat healthily, and to keep my blood sugar stable so that I don’t get cravings or the urge to overeat. Some people think constantly eating small meals and snacks is a problem. I get a lot of “Are you eating again?” like there’s something wrong with it. I know they think they are helping because they fear that I will revert to my old patterns, but it’s very frustrating and kind of hurts my feelings. I am trying really, really hard to change my life. And this kind of judgmental comment makes me feel that they do not see how far I have come. Part of me tries to understand, but part of me also wants to say, “Yes, I’m eating again. I’m doing exactly what the doctor told me to do. Following this plan, I have lost 127 pounds. So, in the words of the inimitable Kathy Griffin, ‘Suck it!'”
These are the most pressing problems I think I have faced over this last year. It can sometimes feel daunting. Sometimes stressful. Sometimes discouraging. How do I stay focused and remain positive? How do I stay inspired?
Stay tuned for part two of this post and I will tell you!