Gastric Bypass Surgery Crossing Your Mind? Read This First

Once upon a time, she could barely walk one NYC block. Today, she's the most active she's been in her life. If weight-loss surgery has ever crossed your mind, read this now.

I wore a bikini for the first time in February.

First time ever in my life! I laid out by the pool in the South American summer, sun shining on my pale stomach, enjoying this “first” and remembering all of the firsts that I have accomplished since my gastric bypass surgery 8 years ago.

I pushed through a running class, performed samba “no pe” in full sequins and feathers in a student dance recital at the Alvin Ailey Extension, tried online dating, and did walking tours in foreign cities. Before surgery, I would find anyway to avoid moving too much because it was physically uncomfortable.

But isn’t weight-loss surgery the easy way out? You cheated. All you have to do is just reduce calories and increase exercise and…poof! You will be healthy and slim in no time. Just try harder.

A lifetime of listening to that sound and sensible advice led me to weigh over 350 lbs at the age of 37. I heard that advice from others, in my own head, from TV and movies and infomercials and gym ads. Yet, after finding the courage to have weight loss surgery – because yes, it takes courage – here are new thoughts worth sharing if you’re even thinking about it for yourself.

Replace food with new activities.

In my first year after surgery, my stomach was super tiny. I would eat and get full quickly. I never got that satisfaction from having a warm, stuffed belly. I didn’t even realized that I wanted that feeling! When I shared this with my surgeon, he noted that this was my opportunity to find something else in life to give me that satisfaction. I joined a local walking group and walked through a park near my house that I had never been to, walked across NYC bridges, took a sewing class, and more. Food started to play a smaller role in my life, opening up a world of new experiences.

Know that surgery is not the easy way out.

Well, actually, even if it is the easy way out, so what? The most important thing is that it offers a chance to start a healthy life — one where you decide to have a new active lifestyle, enjoy different ways of eating, feel energized and excited about being able to move, to explore, to be free in so many physical and mental ways. You are given this opportunity, and what you do with it is up to you. We all deserve a chance at healthy living.

Understand the process, which ain’t easy.

Getting to the day of surgery is a process. If you want insurance to pay for it, as I did, you’re looking at a minimum of 6 months of visits to your doctor, plus other specialists. It will likely take longer to get to the surgery unless the planets align. After surgery, you re-learn how to eat, like a baby. Cutting out old foods, learning new ones, trying to figure out what to eat. I needed support from groups who understood my unique world.

Realize that your relationships will change.

When people who knew me before surgery see me, they are shocked! But they’re also happy for me, as if something good happened to them. I get wide smiles, hugs, and praise. My weight loss makes most people feel good.

But then there remain the people who ended up questioning their place in the world since my weight changed. You see, I lost the unofficial title of “the fattest person in the room.” That can be comforting to others when you are overweight. But with my weight loss, that crown would pass to someone else. For the relatives and friends who were dealing with their own weight issues, that comfort was removed. Some relationships changed with fewer social calls, avoidance, and then a gradual falling off.

Relish in what your newfound abilities.

I just came back from a vacation in Buenos Aires, a city made for walking and exploring. Every day I went on a 3-hour walk or bike ride and I was hyper-conscious about how I could never have done this before. When I climb the stairs in the subway, when I learn dance choreography, when I decided to explore a new set of skills like writing or public speaking, I’m still conscious of how my body, my mind, and my confidence have all been affected.

Life starts to feel like a comparison of before and after, with the “after” keeping me excited to be active and take care of myself. Even when I fall back into bad habits, my desire to stay healthy and experience the fullness of life helps me to start again, to keep moving, to eat foods that make me feel good, to be thankful for the opportunity the surgery has given me.

 

Heather Desvarieux is a Digital Marketing Program Director, born and raised in New York City. Follow her new IG channel dedicated to her WLS journey@fly_heather_fly

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