I Graduated From Obesity!

March 20, 2013

For long-term post-ops there is a strange dynamic. You’re not quite the same as newer post-ops, not quite the same as a person who never had surgery. How does that affect your story and your long term success? In her most personal blog yet, Bariatric Foodie author Nikki Massie shares her experience.

Obesityhelp.com…And finally we’ve arrived to where I am. In the analogy I’ve been using so far it’d be…I don’t know…”bariatric geriatrics?”

I’m by no means the oldest post-op on the planet (just celebrated my fifth year post-op) but I can say that there is definitely a shift in mentality once you’re a few years out from surgery. And that shift ultimately affects the stories we tell ourselves. There’s a few I’ve experienced first-hand — either myself or from people I know — I’d like to talk about.

The Graduation Story

The strange thing about being a few years post-op is that you are in this really weird middle place between being different from the “non-op” population in some ways, and exactly the same in others.

If other “vets” are like me, you can eat plates of food that no longer raise eyebrows. You rarely get sick off of food anymore. You may have reactive hypoglycemia but so far as dumping you’ve either long since learned to avoid it or long since learned to cope with the effects, so it’s not as big a deal.

And so you think you’ve graduated. You’ve lost the weight. Maybe you’re fit (or perhaps just a heck of a lot smaller). You’re healthier. You can eat food. You don’t need to be involved in the bariatric community anymore right? And if you skip a few vitamin doses…what’s the harm in it? You feel fine!

I’ll tell you a true story about me and the graduation story. I got lax on my vitamin B12 supplements. I am a RNYer so it’s hard for my body to get B12 but for those supplements. One day I made a wonderful pot of chili for dinner and was getting ready to serve it up and…couldn’t remember the word for “bowl.” I literally asked my daughter for “the round thing you put soup and chili in.” And that was AFTER a few weeks of walking into rooms and not remembering why I did and thinking I lost my keys because I couldn’t remember where I’d put them.

Beware the Ides of March vets. You didn’t graduate, you adjusted.

So far as involvement in the bariatric community, not every long-termer needs it. But some of us do. And yes it can be a bit trying to see fresh, new post-ops alive with the joy of losing when you haven’t seen scale movement in forever (and maybe you actually shouldn’t) but in this community there is support. There’s understanding. And, I’ll be frank, you have a responsibility.

You took from this community when you were new. Someone further out likely guided you. All of us “vets” could consider paying it forward and doing the same. The more vet involvement we have in places like ObesityHelp, the more you start to see pre-ops and new post-ops with realistic expectations of what post-op life will be like. And that’s good for everyone!

The Mid-life Crisis

If there’s one thing that gets my blood pressure boiling the most in the post-op process, it’s hearing about the five-day pouch test. I hate to even mention it because I know some folks will Google it and try it.

In and of itself it’s pretty harmless. It’s a method of taking yourself back to earlier post-op eating habits in an attempt to “reset the pouch” and regain restriction.

I see a lot of vets do this when they feel they’ve gone off track (heck, I see newbies do it when they feel they’ve gone off track).

Newsflash friends: If you “stretched” your pouch, no amount of self-inflicted liquid diet torture would put it back to its right size. Pouch or stoma stretching is a matter that should be addressed by your medical team!

But with vets I believe this is sort of a midlife crisis. I come into contact with post-ops of all surgery ages all the time and I admit sometimes I feel like I can eat ten times more than the next post-op. But here’s the real story.

I eat what I can eat a lot of. And what I can eat a lot of are foods that are healthy and nourishing. I can eat a lot of baby spinach in a salad. I can eat a lot of nonfat Greek yogurt. I can eat a lot of fruit. So really…telling myself the story of the bariatric Armageddon isn’t true. I’ve adopted healthier habits and even if I had not my CHOICES are what matters. My pouch was supposed to mature and hold more food. And my brain was supposed to mature and choose the right foods to fill it.

So to my fellow vets I say…breathe. It’s going to be ok. But the basics of weight-loss surgery have pretty much always been the same: protein, water, exercise, vitamins. So next time you tell yourself the “only way to redemption is through torture” story stop and think about why you did this. Was it to constantly be chasing a carrot or was it to enjoy a healthy life? If it’s the latter, then get on with it!

In the end…

The real story for long-term post-ops is this. We will always be just a little bit different than someone who has never had weight loss surgery. Yes, you really do have to take those vitamins every day…even 10 years later. Yes, you do still need to eat lots of protein. Yes, you should be active.

But at the same time you’re not that different anymore. Our long-term requirements are only a pebble’s throw from what any healthy human should do for themselves.

So how do you reconcile this? I don’t have any clear answers. Personally, I stay engaged in the bariatric community because, frankly, it saved my life and continues to save my life every day. And I engage in my real life with real people who have nothing to do with my surgery and recognize that there is a whole sector of my being that has little to do with weight or bariatrics.

What you do depends on the story you want to tell yourself. Do you know what that story is?



Nikki Massie is the author of Bariatric Foodie, a website and online community that encourages weight loss surgery patients to “play with their food.” She is the author of three books: The Bariatric Foodie Guide to Perfect Protein Shakes, The Bariatric Foodie Holiday Survival Guide and The Bariatric Foodie Breakfast Book. Nikki lives Maryland with her boyfriend, 2 daughters, adorable Basset Hound & slightly high-maintenance black cat.

Read more articles by Nikki!