On food. 3 months post surgery update.

It's been just over 3 months since I've had my surgery.  And I thought I'd give a little update.  This process is exactly that-- a process... a journey.  And with so many people offering feedback after my last update, it feels genuine to keep sharing-- both the positive and the negative.

Okay, I am going to offer some numbers, not as a statement of worth or value, but as a reflection of my process. The end of September 2019 is when I consider my process as having started. Prior to the actual date of my surgery (Feb 5 , 2020) I lost 22 lbs.  The majority of that (12 lbs) happened during the two week prep diet immediately before surgery. In the past 12 weeks, I have lost an additional 50.6 for a total of 72.6 lbs since I started the process.  My average weekly loss since surgery is about 3.6 lbs per week. But it's not a linear process.  Weight loss after bariatric surgery is more like a stair pattern.  Lose a bunch, stay there for a week or more, lose another bunch, stay there for another week or so.  I don't know why this is, but they told me that's what I should expect and, well, they were right.  For what it's worth, I don't have a goal weight.  My doctor never assigned me one and I don't really have an idea of what it will look like when I stop losing.  I want my body to land where it feels like it needs to land.

I try every day to make scale numbers feel neutral.  I mean yes, I have lost a significant amount of weight.  But I am trying to avoid tying my worth to the scale.  I feel like I am so much more than what my body weighs. And, incidentally, I don't really see this loss in the mirror much.  Sometimes I can see it in pictures.  But more often than not, I still see the same body as pre-surgery.  It's hard to see the changes on a day-by-day basis.  Clothes fits very differently and I really need some new clothes, but stores are closed (thanks Covid) and I have no idea what size to get. I have shared a few pics with a couple of friends/family members, but I don't know that I will ever really feel comfortable sharing before/after pics online.  It's this really weird space of acknowledging that my body is changing but not wanting to play into the narrative that thinner is somehow better.  It's a pervasive and dangerous ideal that causes so much pain and strife for so many people who struggle with body image.

The important part for me is that I feel so much better.  My back pain is gone. Totally. I am able to move so much more. I have a lot more energy (although moving these past few weeks has used most of that up). I can cross my legs again.  Listen, if you've never been a fat person, you don't realize that's a thing. All of these changes are welcomed and feel so good. And I would consider them positive-- especially the pain relief.  It's a whole new world when I am not hurting anymore after a year of pain.

But not everything about the aftermath feels positive.  Some of it is really tough.  Namely, food doesn't feel cozy anymore.  There's this feeling I had (pre-surgery) after eating a great meal-- all full and fat and happy.  I am not talking stuffed to the gills full where it's miserable.  But that feeling of eating something truly delicious-- something rich, or fresh, or flavorful, or elevated.  Food was not only a source of fuel, it was a source of pleasure. Eating a great meal with great friends was just my idea of the perfect night. But now, food doesn't feel cozy anymore.  They told us in our pre-surgery classes that our taste buds would change and it's so true.  My new stomach can't tolerate (at all) some of what it used to be able to tolerate. And even the things it can tolerate, doesn't bring that same feeling of pleasure. I have followed enough stories of people who have had this surgery to know that this may be a "honeymoon" phase and that some of that will come back.  But for now, it's almost a feeling of loneliness. Food isn't something I can turn to for comfort.  It just doesn't work.  And that is weird to cope with.  On the one hand it's a relief.  It's a total relief.  I don't feel the same kind of hunger anymore. But I feel unsatisfied by food and empty.

Roxane Gay is one of my favorite writers and she wrote a piece in 2018 following her bariatric surgery entitled, "What Fullness Is."  I would highly recommend you read it.  She discusses this concept (and many others) in her piece. 

"I still have that yawning cavern inside of me that I want to fill with food, only now I cannot fill it with food. I’m rarely hungry, but I am ravenous. Want continues to rage desperately beneath the surface of my skin. I turned to food when I was sad and happy and lonely and scared and anxious. I turned to food, and away from everything else; it was my comfort and my friend. Food helped me survive something I did not think I would survive. Food numbed the uncomfortable feelings I very much did not want to feel. And then, that comfort was gone."
That is the exact feeling I am feeling. My anxiety has increased (especially in these weird Corona-times) and I feel I have no source of reliable comfort. And so, like Gay, I have also returned to therapy.  It's work.

In a lot of ways, I feel my surgery was textbook. I had no real complications. The surgery is "working" in terms of weight loss. I am able to eat normal food again, albeit REALLY small portions-- usually just about 5 bites of something before I am full. So far, I haven't experienced hair loss. I haven't experienced any deficiencies that I know of.  (And I did have some bloodwork done a few weeks ago when I had a kidney stone, but I will have more monitoring in a couple weeks).

My skin (and boobs) definitely feel loose and seem more old-ladyish.   I had a friend tell me (based on her experience), "You won't look good naked when all this is said and done." But again, I am trying really hard to see this as something that has nothing to do with appearance as I genuinely believe that the size/appearance of a body has nothing to do with the worth of its owner.  And I recognize this is easier to negotiate because I am fortunate to have an evolved partner who has never made me feel shame over the state/size of my body.  Never.  If he wasn't as supportive, it might be more difficult to deal with these changes.

As of now, I am feeling good.  I feel like this surgery gave me my life back in a lot of ways.  I still don't think it's the option everyone should turn to, but for me, for now, I feel very fortunate that I had this option available to me. And I am currently feeling like this was a really good choice for me.

I will keep you posted as the journey continues as I learn more about where this goes...

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