I am over a year out from surgery and things are smooth sailing. I struggled for a few months after the death of my dad, but I feel confident that I am back on track now. While trying to get myself back on track, I reflected a lot about what tools were key in helping me stay focused in my first year after surgery. I have compiled a list of things that were helpful to me, that I considered post-VSG surgery must-haves. I know there are several people reading that are considering or will be having the surgery, so I wanted to help those out, along with anyone else that might be curious. So, in no particular order…
1. Food Scale. Especially in the beginning, weighing your food is really important. When you’re only supposed to eat a couple ounces at a time, the food scale came in really handy. It was most useful when moving to the puree and soft food stage, when your food is no longer measured in the 1/4 cups but in ounces. I highly recommend a digital scale, not one of those that you just set your plate on and a needle moves. Accuracy is best! Mine is an old WW scale, but they retail for probably $20 on average.
2. Small Bowls and Baby Spoons. Eat out of small bowls and off of small plates. Even over a year out, I still continue to do this. Many of us have been so conditioned to thinking about filling a plate up or filling a bowl up, that when you put 1/4 cup of something in a big bowl, it looks like nothing, and your brain will play tricks on you. So, use a small bowl. Literally, get 1/2 c. containers with lids and use those often! Baby spoons are really helpful in the beginning because you need to take super small bites. It’s easier to take small bites when using a spoon that doesn’t hold much. I still use them on occasion, just as a reminder to eat slowly and take little bites. Cost: $5-10
3. Water Bottle. After surgery you aren’t supposed to drink out of straws. You can’t control the amount of liquid that comes up a straw, and also a bit of air will go down too, and that shit hurts. So, no straws unless you want pain. I can now comfortably drink out of a straw, so it’s not permanent. Get a large water bottle and drink drink drink. Hydration is super important. Right after surgery for several months, you will feel full ALL THE TIME. You will wonder how on earth you’re supposed to get all your liquid in… but just do it. It’s important. Cost: $5-10
4. Blender Bottle. From here on out, protein shakes are going to be really important. I’m not saying you have to drink them forever, but I would bet that a lot of sleevers do incorporate them regularly into their post-surgery diet in the long-term. I know that I still drink at least one shake a day. Some prefer ready-to-drink shakes, like Atkins (I love them!), but there is also more variety and flexibility with the powders. That’s where your blender bottle comes in handy. You always want to shake up your shake when you’re drinking it, or you’re gonna get gritty at the end. Yuck. Cost: 5-10
5. Protein Shakes. As I mentioned the Atkins ones are super easy and I think super tasty. Sugar Free Carnation Instant Breakfast was also a go-to for me for awhile, because it tasted just like chocolate milk! I also use the protein powders from Walmart in vanilla and chocolate, then doctor them up here and there to make more flavors. I like to mix coffee and milk with the vanilla or chocolate for an iced vanilla or iced mocha latte. Try throwing some sugar free syrups in there to spice things up too, or even a little sugar free jello or sugar free pudding powder adds flavor. The possibilities are endless! If you don’t like one brand, try another. Everyone’s tastes are different, and they don’t all taste the same. Also, just because you liked one pre-op does not mean you will like it post-op, so don’t stock up on tons before surgery because you might not like them after surgery. Cost: Varies, Atkins usually 4-pack for $6, powders usually a tub for $20.
6. Scale. I know this can be a slippery slope for some people. Some don’t like to have a scale because they weigh too often. For me though, a scale is necessary to keep me in check. I used to weigh daily (and after surgery, you are likely to see a different number every single day!), and now I weigh several times a week. If you don’t see the scale moving though, it can be a really good indicator that you should look at your daily habits and see if you’re following your plan as you’re supposed to. Maybe you are, and you’re just at a plateau. But maybe you’re not, and seeing the scale regularly can help keep that in check. Cost: $20
7. Gym Membership. For me, this is really important. I realize not everyone can afford a gym membership, so maybe just some equipment or other forms of activity are key for you. For me, the membership is great because I love the group fitness classes the Y offers. Additionally, our YMCA offers a scholarship program that I have been fortunate to receive twice now to help defray the cost of the membership. If nothing else, your own two legs can take you places, so move move move! Cost: Varies, $20-50/month
8. Smaller Clothes. As you lose weight, your clothes are going to get bigger. It can be tough to have to spend money every few weeks or months on smaller clothes, but it will be worth it when you see yourself changing. If you hide behind the big baggy clothes, you can’t really see the progress you’ve made. Check out free site on facebook in your area, post a want-ad on craigslist for clothing, or check out garage sales/resale shops for discounts. You deserve to look good and feel good after your hard work, so don’t settle for wearing clothes that are way too big! Cost: Varies, depending on where you shop!
9. New Underwear. Just like you need new clothes, you also need new underwear. This is something I think people don’t buy often enough! We wear our old ones til they are holey! But the big booty panties aren’t doing your smaller booty any justice! Buy the smaller underwear! And please, don’t get that at a retail shop:) Additionally, you may find the use of a body shaper to be something to invest in. I personally regularly wear one that is a tank-top style shaper, and wear it under my clothing. I feel that it sucks in the deflated skin that I have around my middle and makes me feel more confident. In the summertime though, now that it’s warmer, I have retired the shaper for the most part, because I would rather have some jiggle than sweat to death. A shaper can work wonders though, it allows me to wear a smaller size when I wear it, because it sucks things in that would otherwise be all over the place! Cost: $10-20
10. Progress pictures. Take them! Take them before surgery, take them after surgery. You will be so glad you did. You will have days when you feel like you haven’t made any progress, or that you aren’t doing “good enough”. Look back on those pictures and realize how far you have come. It is so worth it. Cost: Priceless