5 Things Everyone Should Know Before Gastric Sleeve Surgery — That No One Talks About
What’s the real, day to day story?
First things first — Congratulations!
You have made a decision that will undoubtedly change your life — and those are not easy decisions to make, no matter how much the positive outweighs the negative. Change is hard, and the idea of surgery can be scary.
Right now, you probably have either a doctor, nutritionist, or even a therapist (maybe all three!) giving you the ins and outs of what life will be like post-bariatric surgery, both physically and mentally. Now that you have your post-surgery diet plan and rules (I PROMISE that you will survive during the soft foods stage!), you want to know -
What’s the real, day to day story?
Here are five things everyone should know about life after gastric sleeve surgery that you won’t find in your hospital pamphlet.
1. The Facebook Support Groups are Your Best Friend — And Worst Enemy
The social media support groups are AMAZING. You are going to find people who are going through exactly what you are, and have the same questions, fears, and excitement that you do.
You will easily make friends who have a similar surgery date to you, and they will become an ear that understands in a way that friends and family — however supportive they may be of your surgery and lifestyle change — can never be. You will also have access to people who’ve “been there and done that” — people who can tell you that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
New friends will share their incredibly inspiring before and after pictures and loudly cheer for your “non-scale victories” (things that others may have a hard time understanding and appropriately acknowledging).
You can fit in the restaurant booth and cross your legs under it? Does a regular sized bath towel wrap completely around you? You don’t need your BP meds anymore? YAS, HONEY, YAS!!! THROW A DAMN PARADE!!! These are your people.
On the flip side — right now, the Gastric Sleeve Support Group on Facebook has over 130,000 members, and when you get that many people together, inevitably, you’re gonna get a few jerks. Ignore them. Ignore the food police, the armchair psychologists, and the doctors and nutritionists that attended Google University.
Don’t let them get under your skin, and use these sites in the best way they can be — for support and friendship, and not for medical or dietary advice.
2. Everyone Recovers Differently
Ok, read that again. Everyone. Recovers. Differently. I don’t care that your cousin Sharon was back in work four days after surgery; quite frankly, Sharon has always seemed like an exaggerator. A real know-it-all, that one.
Your doctor will likely tell you to take five weeks off before going back to work or doing anything strenuous. You might need those five weeks to feel like yourself, and you might be bopping around a week later. There is no exact answer because it all falls within the realm of “normal.”
Moving beyond those beginning recovery weeks, you may have a stomach of steel that can eventually handle any kind of food. You may have a stomach that has difficulty digesting simple carbs or fibrous veggies; again — it all falls into “normal.” Don’t drive yourself crazy comparing your recovery with someone else’s.
There is no exact answer because it all falls within the realm of “normal”.
3. Transfer Addiction is Real, It’s Ugly, and It Does Not Discriminate
Think about it — when you take away a baby’s pacifier, they sometimes end up sucking their thumb. We can apply this metaphor to many with food addiction, who’s coping mechanisms were taken away. Transfer addiction happens when a person finds a new habit to take the place of a previous one, to produce a similar high.
Studies show various forms of transfer addiction in up to 30 percent of bariatric patients. For these people, food is no longer a source of comfort or distraction, and so they find something to take its place — be it alcohol, shopping, sex, drugs, or any other behavior that can be destructive.
After bariatric surgery, you might find that you have an addiction that has nothing to do with particular food cravings, and everything to do with craving the fulfillment of an emotional need — and if food can’t fill that, you may find a replacement.
You do not need to have a family history of addiction to be affected by transfer addiction. The high number of bariatric patients affected by this is a significant reason that doctors require a psychological evaluation before surgery. You are going through great lengths to take care of your physical health — don’t forget to take care of your mental health, as well.
Studies show various forms of transfer addiction in up to 30 percent of bariatric patients.
4. Your Romantic Relationships Might Change
One exciting fact — patients who were single before their surgery were more likely to find love afterward. Out of nearly 1,000 single patients, 21% got married or started a relationship within four years, compared with 11% of those who didn’t have the procedure.
On the flip side, for married couples studies show a higher divorce rate for those who have had bariatric surgery. A 2018 study found that, of nearly 1,000 obese patients in relationships who had bariatric surgery, 9% had ended their relationships within four years of their operation, compared with 6% in a control group.
One possible reason for all the breakups? Before the weight-loss surgery, getting more physically attractive, the raised confidence — sometimes, before all that, there was just a lousy relationship disguised as a good one. Maybe it hadn’t been working for some time, or it was working — as long as everyone played their practiced role. Some in committed relationships have said that their partner did not like the improvements in their self-esteem because it made them feel insecure, or less than.
Then again, you might be in that percentage who’s relationship changes because you can’t stop having sex with each other.
…patients who were single before their surgery were more likely to find love afterward.
5. Your Body Will Change Faster Than Your Brain
Elayne Daniels, a psychologist in Canton, Massachusetts says, “People who were formerly overweight often still carry that internal image, perception, with them. They literally feel as if they’re in a large body still.” This is often linked to rapid weight loss.
In the first year after gastric sleeve surgery, a person typically loses between 50–70% of their excess body weight, most of which will be in the first six months. You will be losing weight at what may feel like an astronomical pace, and it can be hard to believe that what you are seeing in the mirror is real.
For someone who has spent a significant portion of their life overweight, it can be very difficult to see the “new you”. For most, your brain will catch up to your new body — for some, it may be a good idea to talk to a professional about your “phantom fat” in case you are dealing with any underlying body dysmorphia issues.
For someone who has spent a significant portion of their life overweight, it can be very difficult to see the “new you”.
And (Because I Love You) A BONUS PRO TIP:
Regularly Buy New Underwear
You may be perusing the aisles of Target one day, and suddenly your underwear falls and you catch them between your knees before waddling to the ladies’ room to tie an elastic band around the side so they stay put around your hips.
So do yourself a favor, and invest in a few new pairs of underwear every couple of weeks for your rapidly changing body.
(Not that I have experienced that or anything.)