Today marks two years since I went under the knife to have my insides rearranged. It’s been two years since my gastric sleeve changed everything. In the six months before my surgery, I lost 80 pounds. Since my surgery, I lost another 155 pounds. I’ve made permanent lifestyle changes necessary to be successful with bariatric surgery. But, I’ve also learned a lot about me, bariatric surgery and life along the way. Here are 20 lessons I’ve learned in the two years since my bariatric surgery.
1. Protein is King
One of the first lessons I’ve learned from bariatric surgery is that protein is king. I need protein to survive. It not only helps provide nutrition and calories that I need, but it gives me the energy I need to get through my day. Instead of reaching for caffeine when I’m feeling tired, I can drink a protein shake and get a boost of energy as well. My meals and my life are built around protein, which is great since my favorite foods are proteins. And, ones that aren’t, like pizza, can be made high-protein. Try my chicken-crust pizza if you don’t believe me.
2. It Gets Easier
The second lesson I’ve learned is that a bariatric lifestyle gets easier. At first, when I was going through the progressive post-op diet, it seems so scary and intimidating. I had no idea how I was going to get through those first six months. However, over time it got easier. It soon became second nature to meal prep, eat protein first, limit carbohydrates and slow down when I eat. The further from surgery I get, the easier it gets to make the right choices.
3. Losing Weight Opens Doors
Unfortunately, we live in a society where many people are judged by their looks. Whether it’s the color of their skin or their body size, people face discrimination every day. At my heaviest, I was often overlooked and counted out just because of my size. Since losing weight, more doors and opportunities have been opened to me. I have started jobs that I could have only dreamed about having before. Losing weight gave me the confidence to go after these jobs. I also recognize what a privilege it is for me to be able to overcome the weight discrimination, as BIPOC can’t change their skin color and overcoming racial discrimination. Losing weight and developing a bariatric surgery Web site has also allowed me to be a platform for those voices that often get drowned out.
4. Becoming Who I Want to Be
Losing weight was the key to becoming who I’ve always wanted to be. This realization is one of the many lessons I’ve learned from bariatric surgery. It has allowed me to step into the person God designed me to be. I am using the gifts He has given me to make a difference in this world. Whether I help one person or 100,000 people, I know that He has designed me in my mother’s womb to help His children. I also am more confident, love my body for the first time in my life and know what I deserve in life. Most importantly, I also know what I don’t deserve.
5. Shopping is Fun
I can’t believe that shopping is fun. When you are obese, shopping is depressing. It’s hard to find clothing in your size, much less clothing that fits properly. One of the lessons that I’ve learned from bariatric surgery is that shopping doesn’t have to be a nightmare. It’s exciting to see what size I wear now. It’s fun to see my clothing get too big as I shrink down to my God-given size. I love to be able to shop in the regular women’s section now instead of being banished to the plus sizes. It’s liberating.
6. Amusement Park Rides
Another one of the lessons I’ve learned from bariatric surgery is that I can fit into amusement park rides again. You know, I used to tell people that amusement park rides made me sick, so I didn’t have to face the fact that I was too big to fit into the seats. Now, I don’t have that issue. Me and my brother, who has lost over 150 pounds through the keto diet, rode rides at an amusement park together for the first time since we were young kids. We celebrated our weight loss and tried even the rides that scared us a little bit. It was such a great experience to be able to do that with him.
7. I Enjoy Exercise
One of the most surprising lessons I’ve learned from bariatric surgery is that I enjoy exercise. During the warmer months, I frequently run a few miles around my neighborhood. I never thought I’d be a runner or someone who schedules exercise into her weekly routine. I aim for three to four days of exercise a week, and combine cardio, strength training and stretching. My regular exercise has decreased my excess skin, like bingo wings. It’s also helped me to overcome many mental challenges, as it’s how I process my emotions now instead of eating food. Exercise transformed my life so much, I wish I had started sooner.
8. Challenging Myself Daily
Now that I’ve lost 235 pounds, I have the energy to challenge myself daily. I set daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly goals in my personal and business lives. My daily challenges to improve my life, mind and body are some of my favorite things. I love being able to set goals and achieve them. Whether it’s to reach another weight loss milestone or a new business endeavor, I challenge myself daily to get better in my faith, my finances, my business and my life.
9. Bad Habits Die Hard
As much as bariatric life gets easier as time goes on, one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned from bariatric surgery is that bad habits never fully go away. I still get cravings for unhealthy foods, and sometimes, I give into those cravings. I fight against them daily to try to avoid slider foods, and oftentimes you can tell with what I’m struggling because I’ll create a post around it. If it’s something with which I struggle, it’s probably something with which my readers struggle too. However, I know that we are all strong and can overcome these bad habits. And while we may give in to them occasionally, each time we don’t is a victory.
10. Constantly Changing and Learning
Another one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from bariatric surgery is that I am constantly changing and learning. I learn more about myself, my values and my beliefs every day. Learning has always been a passion of mine, so I self-educate myself on social issues, bariatric issues, nutrition, exercise and business strategies. I am constantly evolving. Before bariatric surgery, I felt so stuck. I knew I need a change, but didn’t know how to do it. Now, I know that learning something new every day keeps me motivated and a better person.
11. God’s Timing is Perfect
There are so many times in my life where I tried to force something. Financial blessings, relationships, career decisions, you name it, I tried to make it happen. Now, since I have had my bariatric surgery and got closer to God in the process, I realize that His timing is perfect. He aligned several events in my life to happen in 2018 to force me to change into the person I wanted to be. His timing is always perfect, even when it seems most inconvenient to me. Now, I still go after what I want, but I trust that God will allow things to happen when they are meant to happen, and not on my time table.
12. Stalls Happen
The next lesson I learned from bariatric surgery is that stalls happen. I thought I was stall-proof for a long time. I never had a stall until about 15 months post-op. Since that time, I’ve been up and down the same five pounds on the scale. I’m thinking maybe my body is happy where it’s at, so it just keeps fluctuating. However, I’d still like to drop a little more weight. I’ll keep trying, but know that stalls happen. Some people stall right after surgery for a few weeks, some lose a week, stall for three weeks. The point is that you keep going. Never give up, even though your weight may stall.
13. Just Keep Going
Going along with the last lesson, the next lesson is that you just keep going. Despite the stalls, despite what happens in life, your job is to never give up. You didn’t make it this far just to make it this far. Life will continue, and you need to learn to adapt and change. This lesson is sometimes hard for me. There are times where I just want to hide in a hole until the worst of something is over. Yet, the world doesn’t work that way. I must keep going, for me, for my future, for my family, and my readers.
14. I Need Accountability
Another one of the important lessons I’ve learned from bariatric surgery is that I need accountability. This blog, this Web site, this business I’m building holds me accountable to the bariatric lifestyle. If I gained back my weight, who would want to look to me for information, tips and inspiration? Instead, this accountability is exactly what I need to keep going. I need people to hold my feet to the fire and sometimes question the decisions I make. It not only makes me more confident, but it also makes me reaffirm my goals and motivation.
15. Mental Health is Important
Mental health isn’t just some buzzword that is floating around, it’s extremely important, especially post-bariatric surgery. You go through so many changes, and getting help for those issues is so important. One of the things I’m a proponent of is that bariatric patients should continue therapy after surgery. I know for me that my hormones fluctuated all over the place, and getting help allowed me to be able to process my emotions and deal with fat-brain after surgery. I still look after my mental health daily by continuing to exercise, journal and take time for me.
16. Bariatric Surgery Isn’t Available to Many
Sadly, this lesson isn’t one that I like. However, through my journey and my platform, I’ve learned that bariatric surgery isn’t an option for many people. Either their BMI isn’t high enough, their insurance doesn’t cover it, they can’t afford it, or they don’t have access to high-quality medical care. For example, one of the things I found is that African American women have higher rates of obesity and obesity-related comorbidities than other women, yet are less likely to undergo bariatric surgery due to lack of time and resources, among other issues. It hurts my heart so much that there are people who can’t get bariatric surgery who want and need it. This surgery changed so much for me, and I want other people to find the same success. One of my missions to help provide better access to bariatric resources for those patients.
17. Vitamins are Necessary
Another one of the lessons I’ve learned is that vitamins are necessary. The best vitamins to take after bariatric surgery are the Bariatric Advantage Multivitamins. They taste great, you only need to take two a day, and they have kept my blood levels at their right level since surgery. These vitamins, along with B12, calcium and biotin are necessary for me to operate at optimal levels.
Hydration is almost as important as protein after bariatric surgery. I know when I don’t drink enough because I get dizzy when I stand up. My doctor challenged me to increase my water intake to prevent dizziness. Hydration is so important, and it’s easy to get dehydrated. I follow many of the ways to drink more water that I list in this post, and it helps me meet my daily goal of eight cups of water a day.
19. Don’t Miss Fat Me
I was so scared after the bariatric surgery that I would miss the fat me. I was scared that I would rather have excess fat than excess skin. Another thing I feared was that I wouldn’t know who I was if I wasn’t the fat girl. Yet, this whole process allowed me to lose myself, just to find myself again. I don’t miss the fat me at all. She was so different from who I am today, and I would much rather be where I’m at today than who I was back then. I wrote a letter to my former fat me to address some of the issues she was facing. I wish someone could have given me that letter back then, but I now share it with you in hopes that it will help you.
20. My One Regret
My one regret from bariatric surgery is that I didn’t have it sooner. The radical transformation I’ve undergone as a snowball effect from bariatric surgery saved my life. If I had just done it sooner, I’d be further along in my life than where I am now. However, as I’ve mentioned, God’s timing is perfect, and He knew when I was ready to have surgery and transform my life. While I do wish I could get back some of those years, I am glad it all happened the way it did. It taught my strength, resiliency and perseverance I didn’t know I had.
Lessons I’ve Learned from Bariatric Surgery
And so, after knowing all of that, would I do it again? In a heartbeat. I may have dietary restrictions and can’t binge eat when I want, but that’s the whole point of my bariatric surgery. Food no longer controls my life. I am free. I’m happy. My life is finally the one I want. So, if you’re ready to be the best version of you, get my Bariatric Beginner’s Workbook and learn the 10 habits you need to find success too. I want you to succeed, and I know that you can do it. These 20 lessons are just the tip of the iceberg. Join me on the loser’s bench and radically transform your life.
I wish I had known just how much better life would get after losing weight and making my life my own. I wish I had known how transforming exercise would be and how much I love eating healthy. I wish I would have known that the recovery isn’t as bad as I imagined.