“The Easy Way Out”

It’s been awhile since I posted our news of seeking out bariatric surgery, and as time goes by and we both get closer to a surgery date, I thought I should post again some information that might be interesting to those reading.  It’s certainly no secret that I have struggled with my weight practically my entire life.  As a kindergartner–a KINDERGARTNER- I tipped the scales at 108 pounds.  While I can’t speak for Eddie and how long he has been overweight, I have seen childhood pictures of his, indicating that he’s struggled with weight for probably as long as I have.  We have both tried a number of diets, or lifestyle changes, as many prefer to call it, but without long-term success.  I have joined Weight Watchers, for example, probably ten times.  And lost the same 50 pounds three times.  I never once contemplated weight loss surgery as a teen or young adult.  As my title implies, many people, myself included at one point in time, felt like it was “the easy way out.”  I thought it was just for people that didn’t want to have to work as hard to lose the weight, that maybe weren’t as dedicated or lacked the will-power to really TRY to lose weight on their own.

I’m here to tell you that I was wrong. 

Bariatric surgery is about the farthest thing from the “easy way out” that I can imagine when it comes to weight loss.  You can’t just decide one day to have it, then magically get it done.  There are a number of hoops to jump through before even being given the chance to schedule surgery.  I thought I would share some of those obstacles with everyone who may be curious.

In October, after contemplating weight loss surgery for over TWO YEARS, Eddie decided to pursue it.  He’s had six knee surgeries and needs further surgery, but cannot have them without weighing less.  He would like to weigh less, he has tried since we’ve been married to weigh less–his job and our livelihood has depended on him eventually losing weight.  For those who may not know, Eddie has been unable to work since we have been married–so 3.5 years and then some–due to his knees.  If he had been able to lose weight on his own without his surgery, he certainly would have.  But, I’m getting off topic–we’ve been thinking about surgery for over two years, but thought of it as a last resort.  We wanted to try to lose weight, both of us, on our own.  Surgery seemed, again, like the easy way out.  But, after educating ourselves, we learned that it is far from it.  Surgery is merely a tool, a tool that will REQUIRE major changes and in turn allow us to see major results.

It is now January 20, and we have been on the journey to weight loss surgery for over three months.  Back in October, Eddie and I decided to register for an educational seminar.  We attended that, along with several support group meetings to hear from people who were at other stages in the process, both pre-op and post-op.  Eventually, in November each of us had separate meetings with the surgeon–we are both going with Dr. Oliphant, who I have heard nothing but good things about.  After the consultation with the surgeon, where we each decided separately on which surgery to have (we both chose the vertical sleeve gastrectomy, or “The Sleeve”), we then had to schedule with the dietician.  Within the next month or so, we each met with her for an interview about current and past eating habits, as well as education on what our eating habits would become closer to surgery and post-op.  It was a lot of information to take in, and a lot to learn.  After meeting with the dietician, the next step was to have an Upper GI performed.  It’s a quick test where you have to drink a couple different things, then they take pictures of your stomach.  They are checking to see if you have an abnormal stomach, have any damage due to acid reflux, have any ulcers, etc.  Eddie and I were both fortunate that we do not have acid reflux damage or ulcers.  This will make surgery easier for each of us.  Next on the schedule was the dreaded psych eval.  I say dreaded, just simply because it’s somewhat nerve-wracking to think about going to a doctor to have them evaluate your mental status.  Eddie and I had different doctors for this, and our experiences were different–Eddie only had an interview, while I had an interview and about 500 questions to answer in test-form.  Ultimately though, we were each approved by the psychiatrist for surgery.  They are making sure that we are mentally capable of making such a huge, irriversible lifestyle change and will also be likely to comply with treatment. 

Whew, so let’s review: Seminar, support groups, surgeon consult, dietician, upper GI, psychiatrist.  After all that, the final step is to get insurance approval.  Eddie’s approval took over a month to finally get.  His insurance requested several records to review before they would approve him–they wanted to see that he had attempted to lose weight in the past, as well as his 5-year weight history.  I am still in the waiting part of insurance authorization, though mine was just sent less than a week ago, so could still be a little while.

Once authorized, then you finally get a surgery date.  Eddie’s is scheduled for February 5.  Two weeks before surgery, however, you have to go on the dreaded pre-surgery diet.  Basically, this diet is like a crash diet.  It’s a crash diet with a purpose, however, and that purpose is to prep your body for surgery.  Overweight and obese people tend to have a very fatty liver.  Due to this, laparoscopic abdomen surgery can be difficult because of the fat around the liver and where the scope and instruments need to go.  This pre-surgery diet is known to rapidly shrink the fat around the liver so that your body can be prepped for the surgery and make surgery less risky.  Also, if you’re not going to comply with the pre-surgery diet, it’s a good indication that maybe surgery isn’t for you, because complying with the doctor’s plan is of utmost importance afterwards!  There are three diets that you can alternate between in the 2 weeks prior to surgery, and they are slightly different between men and women (men get more), but here is an example diet that Eddie will be doing starting on Tuesday: 64 oz of fluid (low-calorie, sugar free, preferably water), 3 Atkins Advantage Shakes, 24 oz of skim or 1% milk, 1.5 cups of plain frozen or fresh veggies (steamed), and 4 medium pieces of fruit.  And that’s it.  Certainly not easy.

After surgery will be a whole other set of guidelines and regulations, starting with liquids, working up to soft and pureed foods, then finally solids in very small amounts.  We will consume a lot of liquid protein in the beginning especially.  It will require hard work and discipline, but you don’t have a choice once you take the step to have surgery.  We are both very much looking forward to the benefits that we will see because of the surgery, though.  Health problems diminishing, mobility increasing, being able to get out and do things and enjoy life in ways we have never been able to do because of how weight has limited us.  It will truly be worth it.  But it will be hard work, and it certainly will not be the easy way out.

In closing, we very much appreciate the support that we’ve received from many friends and family members.  It goes without saying that we know there are some out there that don’t think this is the best decision, and to that I say that it may not be the best decision for you, but we truly believe it is the best decision for ourselves.  Two years of thinking and researching has led us to this point, and we are looking forward to where the path leads us.  We’re also happy to answer any questions that friends or familiy have about the surgery–I know it can seem scary to hear about people having weight loss surgery because of the negative things that you hear about.  But there are way more positive experiences out there than the negative ones, and the benefits most certainly outweight the risks.