Sunday, September 22, 2013

Guest blog - Daily Life with a gastric bypass

In this guest blog by Lisa Sargese, a college professor, who had a gastric bypass several years ago, she details how it feels to fight one's digestive tract at every meal.  I can relate because I have a bad case of GERD (hiatal hernia) - that and a bad medical procedure I got talked into called an "esphagoplasty", causes me a lot of grief in swallowing anything non liquid as my esophagus is narrowed and very scarred and does not conduct the peristaltic wave very well at all (the foolish procedure I had was that they blew up a balloon in my esophagus to supposedly, help the narrowing from the GERD - they said it would only last 6 months but I could have it done again... as I had a bolus of tuna firmly stuck in my lower esophagus and could not even keep water down, I was not really in a mood to bargain or question the medical profession - I was ready to have it done again, when in 6 months I experienced increased difficulty in swallowing, but then, I met a fellow who had had several of these esphagoplasty procedures and now was so scarred, he had a difficult time swallowing water - I decided against another esophagoplasty).

As people rush to get on the weight loss surgery table, they don't realize what it means to fight your GI tract at every meal, to plan how you are going to "get through" outings in a society where sharing a meal is the glue which brings friends and family together, how it feels to stand in front of some dirty restaurant toilet, trying to "get up" a piece of food which got stuck on the way down. Please read the following - it is very well written and very true.  Lisa has given her kind permission to me to reprint this:

 "A common misunderstanding
of gastric bypass surgery
 is that the pouch causes weight loss
because it is so small,
the patient eats less.
Although that is true for the first six months,
that is not how it works.
Some doctors have assumed that poor weight loss
in some patients is because
they aren't really trying to lose weight.
The truth is it may be because
they haven't learned how to get the "satisfied" feeling
 of being full to last long enough....
 it is NOT the size of the pouch
but how it is used
that makes weight loss maintenance possible."

- Pouch Rules for Dummies

Let me just preface this rant with the declaration that I don't believe weight loss surgery leads to overall good health. It may provide you with short term or drastic weight loss but it will cause side effects that make it not worth the pain and suffering.  Don't bother leaving me a comment to the contrary. I've heard it all. I've been called "bitter" and "a failure" and been yelled at for discouraging people form getting this "life saving surgery". I will glance at your comment and delete it.

That being said, let me tell you about overful pouch syndrome. It feels like dumping but it ain't.  It's when the pouch stretches too far and too much food needs to be processed. The symptoms are frightening: rapid heart pounding, weakness, dizziness, pain, pressure,and a sudden need to raise your legs higher than your heart no matter where you are.

Now, you mean-spirited, pro-wls cheerleaders are going to say that I should have learned by now exactly how much food I can tolerate. Let me school you. I am able to tolerate less and less food over time. I had my rny gastric bypass in 2006. I can now tolerate half of what I could eat when I first started this awful "journey". Different foods cause different reactions under different circumstances. It's always a surprise. I can eat and process less and less food.

One might think this is good news. One might expect me to be delightfully thin by now.


I fight fatigue due to my inability to take in enough food to give me the energy I need to live my life.

I can't tolerate protein shakes and never could.

My metabolism has slowed to accommodate my miniscule portions of food. I'm a sluggish, tired, cranky f*ck for a major portion of my day.

I have to load up on sugar and salt just to give me the energy to teach my classes.
When I'm hungry I can never eat enough to truly satisfy my hunger. The overfull pouch symptoms begin before I can get enough food into my body.

And so it goes...

Special occasions are difficult. Going out to eat is difficult. Social eating is difficult.
I have to gauge when I've had enough and put the fork down in time. Since there is a delayed reaction between swallowing and the food reaching my poor pouch, I often take a few bites too many. I pay dearly for every mis-bite.

Different foods produce different levels of discomfort. Sometimes I can eat a big salad. Sometimes I can eat lots of fruit. Sometimes I'm wrong and mere orange juice will cause the symptoms. It's a crap shoot every time I pick up a fork.

This weekend my brother and sister in law are visiting from Vermont. We had a lovely dinner at a Thai fusion place in Montclair. After dinner we went around the corner to Coldstone Creamery. We each got child's portions of dessert. We just wanted a taste. I took one spoonful too many. I had to explain why I was sighing and burping and roughly exhaling as I drove home.

I hate the weight loss surgery sales pitch. I was promised one thing and am experiencing another.

Satiety is not possible with water, I don't care what the literature says.

Protein shakes are odious. I am nauseated by them after the first sip.

All the tricks for feeling satisfied on a subsistence level of food don't work.

Our bodies are more complex than what the wls people want you to believe. Feeling satisfied after a meal is not just a function of the pouch or the stomach. Our bodies signal their need for food in many ways. Trying to cheat that system leads to a deficit, a debt, a bill that we have to pay to our bodies. Living on post-wls diets lead to problems, I don't care what the cheerleaders tell you. Some of them outright lie. Some are experiencing symptoms that their doctors won't admit are directly related to their weight loss surgery. Some are so delirious from being thin they ignore other areas of their physical existence. Many have stalled or gained weight back and disappear from the scene for fear of the shaming that comes from the cheerleaders and the medical people themselves.

My brother and sister in law are here with Theodore and Tilly Bear of the Teddy Bear Monastery founded by my brother. I'd like to enjoy their visit without having the burden of worrying that one bite too many will give me heart attack symptoms. That's not how it goes with wls. I'll be spending huge portions of their visit in major discomfort. I notice it more when I'm with people and when I'm eating outside the home.

Wls is the forever-f*ck-you for being fat. It is the forever-f*ck-you for being convinced that one has an eating disorder that only surgery can keep in check.

Every single time I eat I am reminded of my decision to alter my insides in an effort to be acceptably thin. I am reminded of my decision that I needed surgery to help me manage my eating because I decided I was untrustworthy as a self-caretaker.

Every single time I eat.
Every single day.

by Lisa Sargese, M.A.

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