Tanya McGill enjoying dinner with friends in Barcelona, Spain.
Getting back into the swing of things following bariatric surgery was fairly easy given that I was well prepared. The nutritional classes I’d attended at Emory Healthcare prior to surgery, as well as the vast amount of information I’d collected from all the support group meetings I’d gone to really helped take out as many unknowns as possible. I’d even seen a psychologist regularly who specialized in helping weight loss surgery patients prepare for what to expect after surgery.
I thought I had done the entire course of the weight loss surgery’s version of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” but I still wasn’t fully prepared for what life would be like emotionally after surgery. This wasn’t anyone’s fault; this was because life is weird and people are strange and there was absolutely no way to predict how each and every person was going to respond to me after I began losing weight, and I couldn’t know how I was going to handle the huge variance in responses. Finding my center and staying grounded was one of the most challenging things I faced as a post-op gastric bypass patient.
Because hormones are stored in fat cells, as the fat cells begin to rapidly shrink those hormones are released in very quick bursts. This can lead to mood swings or depression in some people. Others may not notice any change in mood whatsoever. Some people in our support group spoke of mourning the loss of their best friend: food! Before my surgery, food was a great companion, a loyal consoler to whom I could always turn during times of stress and pain as well as during times of great happiness and celebration. I could always count on food to be there for me. After my procedure, that was no longer the case. I had to cultivate new tools in order to move smoothly into my new life as a person whose tiny new pouch could only accommodate enough to maintain nutrition – certainly not emotional eating.
As I alluded to earlier, dealing with others around you can be a little tricky, as well. Those who know you have had surgery may feel the need to scrutinize every individual thing you put on your plate or in your mouth (even if they never went through a weight loss surgery nutritional class in their life). They could be concerned, they may wish to help or support you, or they may just be downright nosey. This might be a good time to whisper a personal mantra to yourself, something like, “I am surrounded by many good people who want only the best for me.” Well, at least something close to that worked for me so I wouldn’t go crazy every time I had to explain to people that yes, I actually could have cheese grits for breakfast if I wanted to and still lose weight!
One of the most poignant moments I remember concerning the topic of my impending bypass surgery took place in my favorite fondue restaurant. I and dear friend of mine (whom I had known since I was thirteen) were there along with our another close friend and her husband. The four of us were chatting when the theme of the conversation moved to my surgery which was just a few weeks away. The friend I’d known since I was thirteen suddenly became very concerned, not about the surgery itself and how I might fare during the procedure or anything of that nature. She was quite concerned about my losing weight and therefore losing the real “me” in the process. I remember so vividly her saying that she loved me just the way I was and that she didn’t want me to change who I was in this process. I had to assure her that I was, indeed, going to change, but only in the best of ways. I knew in my heart that this surgery was the right thing for me to do. And I still feel that way more than six years later.
Next up: A handful of the countless miracles I have experienced on this journey.