I remember when I began the process leading up to weight loss surgery. I read everything I could find about it, talked to people about it, and joined online groups so I could learn even more. I had plenty of ideas about how much better my life could be if I lost weight. I envisioned the clouds parting and the sun finally shining down on me.
I was apprehensive, though, and I had a lot of questions, because I was afraid and I wasn’t sure if I could make it through all the required hoops. I mean, besides all of the medical tests, I had to be on a supervised diet for six months and I needed to lose weight before surgery. Like a lot of folks who face that obstacle, I was discouraged and got cold feet. I thought, If I can lose that weight, then maybe I don’t need to do something as drastic as surgery, after all.
Then there was the liquid diet after surgery. How would I manage that? And how would I make (and stick to) an eating schedule? And how would I get all my water AND all my protein AND all my supplements? (There are only so many hours in a day, you know.) And that’s only the first couple of weeks! What will I do after that??
Those who know me <ahem, Mr. Stuck> know that I worry about things — mostly those things I can’t change. My mother used to warn about ‘borrowing trouble’ and I seem to do it a lot. I had myself in a complete lather with all the ‘what ifs’ I came up with in the months and weeks before surgery, not to mention afterward. I concocted all kinds of scenarios, some more believable than others, but I worried about them all.
What if my hair falls out? What am I going to do about saggy skin? What if the surgery doesn’t work? What if I’m left with strange digestive troubles? What if I don’t lose weight? What if I develop some weird side-effect that nobody’s ever heard of? What will I do at parties — restaurants — friends’ houses? How do I eat without drinking? What will I do without coffee? How soon will I be at my goal weight? What if I never get to my goal weight?
What if I fail?
And then there were the WLS support group stories. I listened to people who couldn’t eat without throwing up, those who could no longer handle certain foods, and those who had constant digestive issues. I heard people worry about how they would balance their own dietary needs against those of their families. I heard people worry about if they should ‘come out’ about their WLS, and if so, to whom. And I noticed something.
I noticed that everyone was worried about something. Everyone had questions, even if they never voiced them. And I noticed something else. For every question, there were as many answers as there were people. None of those answers were ‘wrong,’ and none were ‘right.’
The common theme was, Your results will vary.
Just like there is no such thing as a typical WLS patient, there is no such thing as a universal result. Each person’s success hinges on their personal health history; the time and effort they invest; follow up care; exercise; spiritual, emotional and mental factors; their support network; their commitment to a healthier life; and a host of other elements that can change every day.
So while I urge you to read and learn and talk to folks and ask questions throughout this process, I also encourage you to understand that there are a million things that will affect how this surgery changes you, and while some may be somewhat predictable, most are not. You may find, as I did, that the issues you have after surgery are not the same things you worried about beforehand. I will guarantee, though, that you will learn some things about yourself that you might not have realized before. That may not be easy, but it will be valuable.
Your perspective and your insight change with your physiology. You will reassess what is important — your blood pressure? Your goal weight? Your waist size? Your activity level? Your relationships? These things will all change, and so will their significance to you.
On the other hand, there are things that WLS doesn’t change. It doesn’t give you the ability to avoid consequences. It doesn’t make your food issues disappear. Let me say that again: It doesn’t make your food issues disappear. It doesn’t automatically make you a “skinny person” (whatever that means) for life. It isn’t a free pass to get away with something. It doesn’t erase the bad habits you have developed over your lifetime. It doesn’t give you a great personality, a better job, more friends, or instant happiness.
It gives you another chance – a fresh start. It gives you an opportunity to take stock of things and make adjustments. So use it. Just remember one thing:
Your results will vary.