Weight loss and life after bariatric surgery

3 months ago, in April 2016, I had bariatric weight loss surgery. Specifically, I had a procedure known as an “Omega Loop” or “Mini Bypass”. Or, if you’re of a medical bent, it’s called a Single Anastomosis Gastric Bypass. Terminology aside, the original plan was for me to have a full gastric bypass, but once the surgeon got in there he had to make an on-the-fly decision to alter the op.

Either way, I’ve lost 40kgs (88lbs) in the 3 months since the operation. Since I began the journey to this point, I’ve lost a total of 75kgs (165lbs). The weight loss continues and my target is to end up at a reasonable normal weight for my 6’4″ height (90-100kgs).

I thought it would be interesting for people who are considering a procedure like this to talk about what life is like after surgery. Of course, this is my personal experience and you should seek the advice of a medical professional before undertaking any dietary or medical procedures relating to weight loss.

The Benefits of Weight Loss Surgery

It’s not just about losing weight. Although I get a “free ride” for around a year after surgery – you lose weight regardless of dietary or exercise activity – the other benefits kick in almost immediately. For example:

  • The easing of Type 2 Diabetes symptoms. Although it’s technically not correct to say my Type 2 Diabetes in “cured,” I now have a normal hBa1c blood sugar reading for the first time in 20 years. The risks involved with Type 2 diabetes are serious – eye damage, damage to extremities etc. The symptoms I experienced the most during my heaviest times included:
    • Frequent urination, especially at night – getting up four or five times a night to pee
    • Excessive thirst – I was always drinking
    • Difficulty concentrating

    I no longer suffer from those issues.

  • More energy. Despite the significantly decreased food intake, I now have more vitality, and am not hampered with tiredness or fatigue
  • A wider range of available clothing. Clothes for larger people are expensive, especially in new Zealand, and the range of brands and styles limited. Now I can go to many of the “normal” clothing retailers to buy clothes, although they’re still at the upper range of available “normal” sizes… it’s a great improvement
  • Travel becomes easier. I can now fly and take public transport without worrying about lap extender belts, not being allowed to sit in an exit row, inconveniencing other passengers etc.
  • Walking becomes easier, in fact – fun! Walking used to be a chore. Hills were a nightmare. When friends invited me to go out somewhere public, my first thought used to be “are there hills?”. Now, hills are no problem. I almost don’t notice how often I go out now.

Eating after Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric surgery is a serious re-working of your innards, so you should expect that your eating habits will be significantly different for the rest of your life. Your tastes, how you eat, and how you eat about food will change. You will generally always have to take some sort of supplement or vitamins, and will need to keep an eye on your calcium and iron levels.

This will be different for everyone, but my experiences have been as follows:

  • I can still only eat very tiny meals. We’re talking half a cup. Sometimes more if I’m eating soup or yoghurt.
  • Making a mistake is painful. If I overeat, or eat too quickly, or don’t chew my food well enough… I suffer. My stomach is essentially a 30g pouch with a 1cm hole at the bottom – if that gets full or clogged – it hurts. You want to vomit, but you can’t. The best you can do is drool or spit until whatever it is passes. You can be in pain for hours.
  • The foods you used to like are sometimes no longer enjoyable. Sugar, fat.. sometimes you want these (out of habit) – but they’re no fun to eat.
  • Eating out and shopping can be wasteful. I find I buy foods that I end up not being able to eat, and they get thrown out. If I go out to restaurants, I can usually only nibble at a meal.
  • You no longer want to clean your plate. Most overweight people tend to eat everything in front of them (and more) and find it difficult to leave a plate unfinished. Thankfully, post surgery, once I’m full, I have no desire for the rest of the meal. So it’s not like you can only eat a small amount and then look longingly at the rest – now, once I’m full, I can’t even look at the rest of the food.
  • You need to experiment. Carefully. I’m still playing it safe – soups, smoothies, crackers, healthy yoghurt. I automatically get nausea even thinking about certain foods as my body learns what it can and can’t handle.

Note that these are my experiences after 3 months. Over time the foods I can eat will grow, and eventually, I may be able to eat a meal the size of a small appetizer.

Today I visit my surgeon for the first time since the surgery. I’ve had a blood test in advance – it was great to see my blood sugar at normal levels. My blood pressure and most of my other stats are now normal or excellent for someone of my age and height. My ferritin levels (related to iron retention) and alkaline phosphatase are a little high, and my HDL cholesterol a little low… but this is where my supplements will be tweaked.

I’ll keep posting as I progress through this weight loss journey, but I’m about to go traveling as a digital nomad, starting with London in August, and without taking this huge step, this phase of my life may never have happened.

If you have any questions or comments, please post them below 🙂